Hideo Ozawa: Nidek founder merged optics, electronics

September 1, 2009

Hideo Ozawa, the founder and chairman of Nidek Co. Ltd., is being remembered as a visionary who combined optics and electronics to advance vision technology around the world. Ozawa, 79, died June 16.

Key Points

Ozawa, 79, died June 16 of heart failure at a hospital here.

Born in 1930 in Anjo City, Aichi, Japan, Ozawa earned a degree in physics from Nagoya University in 1953 and joined Kohfuku Industrial Co. Ltd., now known as Kowa Co. Ltd.

In 1971, Ozawa resigned from Kowa and founded Nidek with six employees and the goal of taking things from "invisible to visible," the company said. Today, the company remains based in Gamagori, Japan, with more than 1,200 employees, and it has subsidiaries in the United States, France, and Italy.

"Linking optics and electronics is [a] unique character that is not accomplished by [either an] optics company or [an] electronics company," Amano said. "He experienced some experiment which measured temperature of [a] faraway chimney by checking resistance value electrically at the focus point of [the] telescope."

Ozawa's breakthrough device was the first xenon photocoagulator (XC-550A), in 1973, which was first displayed at the Japanese Ophthalmological Society (JOS) and which he exhibited at the International Congress of Ophthalmology in Paris. The first unit was sold in 1974 in the United States. The instrument garnered the interest of Jacksonville, FL-based Marco, a maker of vision diagnostic equipment that later affiliated with Nidek, Amano said.

In 1982, Nidek introduced the first autorefractor (AR-2000) at the JOS.

Known as an extroverted, dynamic, and charming individual, Ozawa enjoyed taking the business worldwide and earning the respect of his peers around the globe, Amano told Ophthalmology Times. He also lectured on applied optics at Shizuoka University in Japan.

His contributions earned the praise of his country; the Japanese government and the emperor presented him with the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun in 2004.

Ozawa is survived by his wife and two sons. In 2008, he became chairman of Nidek's board, and one of his sons, Motoki, who had been a vice president since 2005, was promoted to president and chief executive officer.