Hajime Mitarai, the president of Canon, Inc. of Tokyo, who was elected to the MIT Corporation in June, died August 31 in a Tokyo hospital at the age of 56. His death was attributed to complications from pneumonia.
Dr. Mitarai received the SB, SM and EE in electrical engineering from MIT in 1965. He worked at the Corning Glass Works from 1966 until 1972 and received a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1973. He joined Canon, which was co-founded by his father, who also served as its first president, in 1974.
Dr. Mitarai was in charge of research and development activities starting in 1978, helping turn the electronics manufacturer into one of the world's most innovative companies. According to The New York Times, Canon last year was awarded more American patents than any company except IBM and has consistently been in the top five companies in the number of American patents obtained.
Dr. Mitarai, who became president and representative director of the company in 1993, emphasized the development of unique products. The key to innovation, he said, was to stress individual effort as opposed to group effort common in Japanese companies.
Among his many accomplishments, he helped oversee the development of the laser printer and also bubble jet printing, which produces clear letters at a relatively low cost.
Dr. Mitarai came to the United States for his education, something unusual for a Japanese in those days, after graduating from high school in Tokyo in 1957. He actively supported MIT, having served as president of the MIT Association of Japan since 1990.
MIT Chairman Paul E. Gray, in a letter to Corporation members, said Dr. Mitarai had "looked forward with great anticipation to his first Corporation meeting in October, which would have coincided with his 57th birthday. His presence and enthusiasm will be sorely missed."
Dr. Gray added that Dr. Mitarai had been his student "and he and his wife have been personal friends since those student days."
Memorial resolutions will be presented at the annual meeting of the Corporation in October.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 1995.