School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Herman Hollerith
  • Herman Hollerith
  • Born: February 29, 1860
  • Died: November 17, 1929
  • Field: Computer hardware; computer engineering
  • Focus: Invented technology such as punched cards to improve the efficiency and accuracy of data processing. Founded a company that eventually merged with others to become International Business Machines (IBM).
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1800s

Herman Hollerith improved the efficiency and accuracy of data processing by inventing a tabulating machine which was the first to used punched cards. This machine laid the foundation for the development of the electronic computer. A version of this machine was first designed using a paper tape; however, the tape's major drawback was that it had to stop to allow the pin to go through the hole to make contact. Hollerith then went on to develop a method to convert the information on punched cards into electrical impulses. These impulses would then activate mechanical counters The system was tested by tabulating mortality statistics. Hollerith's system was then chosen from a group of three to be used for the 1890 census. The census was completed in three months and saved the United States five million dollars. The population for the 1890 census was 62, 622,250.

He founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896. The primary purpose of this company was to exploit Hollerith's inventions. He was awarded more than thirty patents by the United States. Hollerith lost the bid for the 1900 census to James Power. In 1911, the Tabulating Machine Company merged with another to become the Computer Tabulating Recording Company. In 1924, the company was renamed International Business Machines Corporation. During his life Hollerith was awarded Elliot Cresson Medal by the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, the Gold Medal of the Paris Exposition, and the Bronze Medal of the World's Fair in 1893.

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