Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name

Meet the most famous inventor you’ve never heard of – whose greatest invention may be himself

Sir Dr. NakaMats is one of the greatest inventors of our time; his biggest claim to fame is the floppy disk. (Yuriko Nakao)
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By his count, Dr. NakaMats has clocked 3,377 patents, or three times as many as Thomas Edison (1,093 and no longer counting). “The big difference between Edison and me,” he says, matter-of-factly, “is that he died when he was 84, while I am now just in the middle of my life.”

This conviction is rooted in nutritional research that Dr. NakaMats has been conducting since he was 42, using himself as a guinea pig. “I was curious to see how I could extend my life span,” he says. “And what foods fuel the best inventions.” Which is why he meticulously photographs, catalogs and scrutinizes every meal he eats. He then analyzes samples of his blood and correlates the data. “I have concluded that we eat too much,” he says. “That is what makes life short.”

Dr. NakaMats believes that the right food and drink, moderate exercise and an unflagging love life will keep him alive until 2072. “The number of sleeping hours should be limited to six,” he advises. “Alcohol, tea, milk and tap water are bad for the brain and should be avoided. Coffee is also very dangerous. One meal a day is optimal, and that meal should be low in oil and no more than 700 calories.”

His own diet consists of a single serving of puréed seaweed, cheese, yogurt, eel, eggs, beef, dried shrimp and chicken livers. He seasons this concoction with Dr. NakaMats’ Rebody 55, a dietary supplement comprising 55 grains and several mystery ingredients. “It is ideal for sprinkling on soup or cereal,” he says.

In 2005, Dr. NakaMats’ investigation into the links between eating habits and intelligence earned him an Ig Nobel Prize. Conferred annually at Harvard by the Annals of Improbable Research, a bimonthly journal devoted to scientific humor, the Ig Nobels pay homage to achievements that make people laugh. “Ig Nobel Prize Laureate,” reads Dr. NakaMats’ silver-trimmed business card, which also trumpets his selection “by U.S. Scientific Academy as The Greatest Scientist in The History.”

As it turns out, that academy was the International Tesla Society, a Colorado-based association of inventors. The Tesla Society once issued a card set that showcased influential scientists. Dr. NakaMats made the cut, along with Nikola Tesla, Archimedes, Michael Faraday and Marie Curie. “My card describes me as ‘super inventor,’” he says. “That means I am the greatest.” Somewhere along the line, something was lost in translation.

So what does history’s greatest scientist deem history’s greatest invention? “My answer is, Do you have children?” he tells his American visitor.

Dr. NakaMats has had three. “A child can be invented four ways,” he grumbles. “Smart seed, smart field. Smart seed, stupid field. Stupid seed, smart field. Stupid seed, stupid field.”

And how did his kids turn out?

“All stupid due to stupid field.”

About Franz Lidz

A longtime Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated and the author of several memoirs, Franz Lidz has written for the New York Times since 1983, on travel, TV, film and theater. He is a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.

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