Leo Esaki was born in Osaka, Japan in 1925. Esaki completed work for a B.S. in Physics in 1947 and received his Ph.D in 1959, both from the University of Tokyo. Esaki is an IBM Fellow and has been engaged in semiconductor research at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, since 1960. Prior to joining IBM, he worked at the Sony Corp. where his research on heavily-doped Ge and Si resulted in the discovery of the Esaki tunnel diode; this device constitutes the first quantum electron device. Since 1969, Esaki has, with his colleagues, pioneered “designed semiconductor quantum structures” such as man-made superlattices, exploring a new quantum regime in the frontier of semiconductor physics.
The Nobel Prize in Physics (1973) was awarded in recognition of his pioneering work on electron tunneling in solids. Other awards include the Nishina Memorial Award (1959), the Asahi Press Award (1960), the Toyo Rayon Foundation Award for the Promotion of Science and Technology (1960), the Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Prize from IRE (1961), the Stuart Ballantine Medal from the Franklin Institute (1961), the Japan Academy Award (1965), the Order of Culture from the Japanese Government (1974), the American Physical Society 1985 International Prize for New Materials for his pioneering work in artificial semiconductor superlattices, the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1991 for contributions to and leadership in tunneling, semiconductor superlattices, and quantum wells. Dr. Esaki holds honorary degrees from Doshisha School, Japan, the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain, the University of Montpellier, France, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan and the University of Athens, Greece. Dr. Esaki is a Director of IBM-Japan, Ltd., on the Governing Board of the IBM-Tokyo Research Laboratory, a Director of the Yamada Science Foundation and the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan. He serves on numerous international scientific advisory boards and committees, and is an Adjunct Professor of Waseda University, Japan. Currently he is a Guest Editorial writer for the Yomiuri Press. Dr. Esaki was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 1974, a member of the Japan Academy on November 12, 1975, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Engineering (USA) on April 1, 1977, a member of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft on March 17, 1989, and a foreign member of the American Philosophical Society in April of 1991.
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
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