R.I.P. Osamu Fujimura (1927-2017)

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In 1975, Osamu Fujimura hired me as a Member of Technical Staff in his new Linguistics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J.  I spent 15 formative years there, and I owe a great deal to the environment that he created.

Osamu's degree was in physics from the University of Tokyo in 1962, and he had previously been a faculty member at the University of Telecommunications in Tokyo, a Research Staff Member at the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, a guest researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and professor and director of the Research Institute of Logopedics and Phoniatrics in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tokyo.

You can read more about his career in his Wikipedia entry, and the obit by Chris Wellekens at ISCApad.

I'll write at greater length later about his ideas and his influence. For now I'll just echo what Chris Wellekens wrote:

Perhaps more than what Osamu actually did as a scientist, is how he encouraged others in his research labs and beyond, especially young researchers, both men and women, to observe data, ask questions, think about how to interpret and organize their observations, and then to cheer them on as they became independent researchers, contributing in their own right to the field of speech science.

We like to think of Osamu's commitment to especially young researchers as “pay-it-forward”. May we, as we remember Osamu, be willing to share time, energy, expertise, mentoring, etc. with the up and coming younger generation.

Thank you, Osamu. And, thank you, for your smile.

I'll add that Osamu had friendly and productive relationships with researchers from a wide array of culturally diverse and often mutually hostile fields: physics, psychology, medicine, computer science, electrical engineering, phonetics, linguistics, and more. And he worked hard to create an environment where people from these diverse backgrounds could collaborate productively.


1 Comment

  1. chh said,

    April 11, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

    There's a typo in the title of this post- you'll probably have noticed it before you read this comment…

    [(myl) Yes, I did — but thanks! I depend on the proofreading of strangers…]

    Interesting that he had a connection to Max Matthews, too- I'd like to know more about that.

    [(myl) In 1975 when I arrived at Bell Labs, Max was the director of the "Acoustics and Behavioral Research Center", and Osamu was one of the department heads under him. There's a lot more to say about that, as you can imagine.]

    The post you wrote about Tex Logan was also really good- Another person I wouldn't have known about otherwise!

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