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Shinya Inoué, one of the world’s premiere microscopy and live-cell imaging scientists, died September 30 in Falmouth after a long career at the Marine Biology Laboratory. He was 98.

The son of a Japanese diplomat, Dr. Inoué was born in 1921 in London, England. He studied in the 1940s at Tokyo University, where he studied with cell biologist and MBL summer investigator Katsuma Dan. He presented Dr. Inoué with a challenge: Build a microscope that will allow us to see the mitotic spindle—the transient structure that moves chromosomes in the dividing cell—in a living sea-urchin egg. Dr. Inoué rose to Mr. Dan’s challenge, building his first polarized light microscope out of various found parts—including a discarded machine-gun base and a tin tea can—at Misaki Marine Biological Station in 1947, in the aftermath of World War II.

With the assistance of Mr. Dan’s wife, biologist Jean Clark Dan, Dr. Inoué entered Princeton University in 1948 and graduated with a Ph.D. in biology in 1951. While at Princeton, he improved his polarized light microscope (now nicknamed the “Shinya Scope”) and in 1951 he used it to prove the universal existence of the spindle fibers. Dr. Inoué announced this landmark discovery in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium, where he premiered a movie of dividing cells that clearly showed the action of the spindle fibers in the mitotic spindle. It was the first major accomplishment in a career devoted to delving into the mysteries of living cells.

Shortly after joining the MBL in 1982, Dr. Inoué and Robert and Nina Allen independently discovered that using a video camera rather than the eye to record images from a microscope brought great gains in image clarity. Inoué combined video microscopy with computer-assisted contrast enhancement, allowing one to see fine details of cells that had never been seen before. It was the birth of the electronic era in microscopy.

Over five decades, Dr. Inoué built seven generations of his Shinya Scope, with technical improvements each time, and in the late 1990s he invented the centrifuge polarizing microscope. He held four US patents for his microscopes and authored more than 100 scientific papers. He also authored the book “Video Microscopy.”

Prior to his move to the MBL, Dr. Inoué was professor of biology at University of Pennsylvania from 1966 to 1982, where he directed the Program in Biophysical Cytology. He was a professor and department chair of cytology at Dartmouth Medical School from 1959 to 1966, associate professor at University of Rochester from 1954 to 1959, assistant professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University from 1953 to 1954, and instructor at University of Washington from 1951-1953.

Dr. Inoué was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon Award from the Government of Japan, the International Prize for Biology from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Microscopy Society of America, and the E.B. Wilson Award from the American Society for Cell Biology. He was honored to lecture on and demonstrate his work to Japan’s Emperor Showa in 1947, 1953, and 1975.

He leaves his wife, Sylvia (McCandless) Inoué; children Christopher, Caroline, Katherine and Bettyne of Falmouth, and Theodore Dana Inoué of New Hope, Pennsylvania; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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