Olympus, Endoscope for medical treatment

In 1950, chief engineer of Olympus Optical Co. Ltd. (now Olympus オリンパス) Mutsuo Sugiura and his subordinate Shoji Fukami developed the gastrocamera, the first in the world. From this technology an endoscope and a fiberscope have also been developed. As of 2007, Olympus’ endoscope represents 70% of the world share.

In the summer of 1949, Tatsuro Uji, a surgeon in the hospital which is a part of the University of Tokyo, visited Olympus Optical Co. Ltd. The purpose of his visit was to make a request for the development of a device able to take photographs inside the stomach. At that time, there were two methods of diagnosing stomach ailments: by X-ray and by gastroscope. X-rays however, weren’t able to examine the state of the stomach wall and it was not possible to take a photograph of the stomach with the gastroscope. As well, the gastroscope carried the risk of damaging the esophagus.

Mutsuo Sugiura, chief engineer at Olympus received the request and worked with his subordinate Shoji Fukami on the development of a device which could take photographs.

Sugiura came from Shizuoka Prefecture. After learning photography in Tokyo, he went to work for the manufacturer Takachiho Seisakusyo in 1938. Before then, he had carried out research and development of such things as cameras and microscopes.

The biggest challenge was that the inside of the stomach had no source of light. It was  necessary to solve this problem and initially, progress was difficult. But Sugiura believed that, “a photograph can exist as long as there are light, a lens and film.” The research continued. The following year, 1950, the first gastrocamera in the world was completed. It was introduced in November at the Japan Surgical Society with the name “Gastrocamera.”

As a result of this invention, it became possible to make a direct diagnosis of the stomach, contributing greatly to the early detection and treatment of stomach cancer and stomach ulcers. The technology has been applied to the development of both the fiberscope and videoscope.

In 1990, Sugiura was posthumously awarded the Eiji Yoshikawa Cultural Prize together with Uji and Fukami for “exceptional results in the early detection and treatment of stomach cancer and stomach ulcers and for his work which contributed greatly to the development of medicine in the world.” He had passed away in 1986 at the age of 68.