Watson, Thomas John, 1874–1956, American industrialist and philanthropist, b. Campbell, N.Y. After rising from clerk to sales executive in the National Cash Register Co. (1898–1913), he became (1914) president of the foundering Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., which made scales, time clocks, and tabulators that sorted information using punched cards, all forerunners of the earliest mainframe computers. The company was renamed International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in 1924 and Watson became its chairman in 1949. Encouraged by his son, Thomas John Watson, Jr., he invested heavily in research and in the 1950s widened IBM's line to include electronic computers. At the senior Watson's death, IBM had assets of over $600 million and a world market of 82 countries.
See memoir by T. J. Watson, Jr., Father, Son & Co. (1990); biography by K. Maney (2003).
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