Yoshimasa Hirata was born in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1915. He recieved his B.S. degree from the University of Tokyo in 1941. He became a Lecturer of Chemistry at the same institute. He was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Nagoya University and immediately promoted to Associate Professor in 1944. After receiving his Ph.D. from Nagoya University in 1949, Dr. Hirata was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 1954. In 1979, he moved to Meijo University and stayed there until 1989.
He was a member of the Japan Academy. His Awards included the Person of Cultural Merits (Bunka Korosha), and the Japan Academy Prize.
His research program was extensive and significant. Particularly well known are his work on toxic compounds, such as tetrodotoxin, palytoxin, his study of bioluminescent compound, Cypridina luciferin from the sea firefly, and his work on bioactive compounds of plant origin, such as anisatin, dendrobine, and daphniphylline.