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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In 1953, three years after his floppy breakthrough, he invented a wristwatch with a digital display. It would be another two decades before the Hamilton Watch Company marketed the Pulsar, widely touted as the first digital timepiece.

After five years as a marketer at global trading giant Mitsui, he left to launch the Dr. NakaMats Hi-Tech Innovation Corporation, which, at its height, had more than 100 employees in Tokyo, Osaka and New York. “Most of my staff had been rejected by other Japanese businesses,” he says. “In my country, the most creative people are rejects.” Dr. NakaMats was once a reject, too. He says his floppy disk got brushed off by six major electronics outfits. “Inventions are best developed on your own,” he allows. “When you work for other people or borrow money from them, maintaining freedom of intellect is difficult.”

Dr. NakaMats keeps his intellect free by following a strict daily routine. Every night in his NakaPenthouse, he retires to the Calm Room, which is actually a bathroom tiled in 24-karat gold. “The gold blocks out radio waves and television signals that are harmful to imagination,” he says. The Calm Room was built without nails because “nails reflect thinking.”

After sitting calmly on the toilet for a spell, surrounded by running water, he moves to the Dynamic Room—actually, an elevator—in which Beethoven serenades him.

Dr. NakaMats’ greatest notions tend to surface on long underwater swims. “If you have too much oxygen in your brain, inspiration will not strike,” he cautions. “To starve the brain of oxygen, you must dive deep and allow the water pressure to fill the brain with blood.” He holds his breath as long as he can. “Zero-point-five seconds before death, I visualize an invention,” Dr. NakaMats says. Eureka! He jots the thought on a proprietary waterproof notepad and floats upward.

On a warm evening last spring, Dr. NakaMats once again tempted death by plunging into the private pool at Tokyo’s Okura Hotel. He sank to the bottom and swam back and forth, like a farmer following the plow. A half-minute into his submersion, Dr. NakaMats scribbled frantically on his pad and—literally—came up with a new idea.

Holding the pad aloft, he pointed to a squiggle that, to the untrained eye, resembled a map of the Ginza Line on the Tokyo Metro. “The most terrifying problem facing Japan is how to dispose of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors,” he said. His lips curved into a thin smile. “This is a solution. This is progress.”

His creative juices tapped, Dr. NakaMats returned home, where he unwound in the arms of the Cerebrex Human Performance Enhancing Robot, a hooded lounge chair that cools its user’s head and transmits sound frequencies through his feet. By his calculations, the machine’s pulsating alpha rays improve eyesight by 120 percent, heighten mathematical skills by 129 percent and cram the equivalent of eight hours of quality sleep into one hour of relaxation.

It’s said that 82.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot. Which accounts for possibly 93.4 percent of Dr. NakaMats’ scientific calculations. He confides that his Love Jet is “55 times more powerful than Viagra and makes sex 300 percent more fun.” Among the other seemingly magical properties of this liquid lust are memory improvement and skin rejuvenation. “I have tested Love Jet on 10,000 women,” Dr. NakaMats said solemnly as he drifted off to the NakaBedroom. “I do not do the sex. I just check the meters.”

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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