Science: Closing the Gap with the West

Behind for years, Japan declares research a national priority

Until Chemist Kenichi Fukui won a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his mathematical explanation of chemical reactions, he was more widely recognized abroad than at home. Indeed, when he first propounded his novel ideas 30 years ago, many of his Japanese colleagues scoffed.

Foreign recognition changed their attitude, and Fukui, now 64, quickly became a national hero. Says he: "The Japanese are very conservative when it comes to new theory. But once you are appreciated in the U.S. or Europe, the appreciation spreads back to Japan."

For all its technological skills, Japanese science still suffers...

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