National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             RYOICHI NAKAGAWA                                         179
                          RYOICHI NAKAGAWA
                                 BY TREVOR O.JONES
                DR. RYOICHI NAKAGAWA, retired executive managing director, Nissan
            Motor Company, Ltd., died in Tokyo, Japan, on July 30, 1998. Dr. Nakagawa
            was born in Tokyo on April 27, 1913, and received his B.Sc. degree in
            mechanical engineering and his Ph.D. in engineering from the prestigious
            University of Tokyo. Not only was Dr. Nakagawa one of the nicest and kindliest
            people I have ever met, but he was also one of the most aristocratic. My wife and I
            fondly remember Dr. Nakagawa coming to our home in Birmingham, Michigan,
            and spending a lot of time with our children teaching them origami and Japanese
            children’s games. This no doubt had an influence on our daughter, Bronwyn, who
            majored in Japanese at the University of Michigan.
                Although I originally met Dr. Nakagawa through our mutual interests in
            automobile design, we both came from the aerospace and defense industries. It
            was through these earlier defense-related experiences that we calmly discussed
            the implications of the United States dropping the two atom bombs on Japan. Our
            discussions were both interesting and objective and, most important, each of us
            understood the other’s position.
                Dr. Nakagawa devoted his sixty-year career to engineering in a wide array
            of disciplines. He started his career as an aircraft engine designer in 1936 at
            Nakajima Aircraft Company and stayed at this company until the end of World
            War II.
             RYOICHI NAKAGAWA                                         180
                Like me, Dr. Nakagawa transitioned from the aerospace and defense
            industry to the automotive industry. Dr. Nakagawa was executive managing
            director of Prince Motor Company in 1964 when it merged with Nissan Motor
            Company and he became managing director and subsequently executive
            managing director.
                Dr. Nakagawa was a leading force in Japan in bringing aerospace technology
            to the automobile. To memorialize this transition, Dr. Nakagawa wrote a paper,
            “From Aircraft to Automobiles—Memories of an Engine Designer,” which was
            published in the Journal of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1982.
             One of the areas of major importance was electronics. In this regard, he was fully
             aware of the limitations of electromechanical control systems. Dr. Nakagawa
             fully embraced this challenge and started Japan Electronics Control Systems
             Company, Ltd. (JECS) to design, develop, and manufacture automotive electronic
             control systems. JECS was a subsidiary of Nissan and was a joint venture with
             other automotive electronics suppliers. I visited JECS with Dr. Nakagawa, and he
             was very proud of his new company; he said to me, “Jones-San, you
            recommended we have our own Delco Electronics Company and here it is.” As a
            result of this in-house automotive electronics capability, Dr. Nakagawa led
            Nissan and JECS in developing pioneering emission control systems, fuel
            injection systems, and many other advanced automotive electronic systems.
                Dr. Nakagawa had immense credibility in the engineering community, as
            demonstrated by an enormous amount of recognition. He was a foreign associate
            of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and a member of the Engineering
            Academy of Japan. He was president of the Society of Automotive Engineers of
            Japan and a recipient of the Japanese Government’s Third Order of the Sacred
            Treasure and Blue Ribbon Medal, the Merit Medal for Army Technology of the
            Japanese Department of the Army, the Progress Award of the Imperial Society of
            Inventors, and the Transportation Cultural Award from the Japanese Department
            of Transportation.
                Throughout his career, Dr. Nakagawa was a prolific author, inventor, and
            keynote speaker. He received his first patent in
              RYOICHI NAKAGAWA                                                           181
              1942 on fuel injection systems for aircraft engines and successfully carried this
              technology into the automobile.
                   Dr. Nakagawa was a renaissance person in advancing harmony between
              industries and nations. Perhaps the following recommendations by one of his
              references for membership in the National Academy of Engineering exemplifies
                   Dr. Nakagawa has been a pioneer in stimulating new ways of working together
                   between industries and governments. Particularly noteworthy is his leadership in
                   establishing and helping to manage the cooperative activity that was carried out
                   by the members of the Japanese automotive industry, members of the U.S.
                   petroleum industry, and Ford Motor Company through the Inter-Industry
                   Emission Control program. This program was particularly important in bringing
                   together and rationalizing diverse views that existed among those industries
                   involved in the early efforts to reduce automotive emissions. Dr. Nakagawa was
                   an effective spokesman and advocate for the Japanese industry. He was
                   particularly effective in developing a relationship with U.S. industry members
                   that led to greatly improving understanding and trust on the part of all
                   participants in the program. The acknowledged success of this program was due
                   in large measure to the efforts and leadership of Dr. Nakagawa.
                   Dr. Nakagawa’s involvement in automotive engineering, his directorship of the
                   electronic activity of Nissan Motor Company, and his continuing involvement in
                   the university system in Japan is a clear measure to his broad interests and the
                   concern that he has for the impact of engineering on related areas.
                   As one of Dr. Nakagawa’s closest friends in the United States, I had the true
              privilege to support his nomination for membership in the National Academy of
              Engineering. I know his knowledge, presence, and ever-smiling and welcoming
              face will be missed by all whom had the good fortune to meet him.
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