Photo: Bell, C. M. (Charles Milton), ca. 1849-1893, photographer.
Born: February 29, 1860
Born Place: Buffalo, New York
Died: November 17, 1929 (aged 69)
Death Place: Washington, D.C.
Resting place: Oak Hill Cemetery
Education: City College of New York (1875)
Columbia University School of Mines (1879)
Occupation: Statistician, inventor, businessman
Known for: the electromechanical tabulation of punched card data; IBM
Awards: Elliott Cresson Medal (1890)
World’s Columbian Exposition, Bronze Medal (1892)
National Inventors Hall of Fame (1990)
Herman Hollerith (February 29, 1860 – November 17, 1929) was an American businessman, inventor, and statistician who developed the electromechanical tabulating machine for punched cards to assist in summarizing information and, later, in accounting. His invention of the punched card tabulating the machine, patented in 1884, marks the beginning of the era of mechanized binary code and semiautomatic data processing systems, and his concept dominated that landscape for nearly a century.
Hollerith founded a company that was amalgamated in 1911 with several other companies to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. In 1924, the company was renamed “International Business Machines” (IBM) and became one of the largest and most successful companies of the 20th century. Hollerith is regarded as one of the seminal figures in the development of data processing.
Herman Hollerith was born the son of German immigrant Prof. Georg Hollerith from Großfischlingen (near Neustadt a der Weinstraße) in Buffalo, New York, where he spent his early childhood.
He entered the City College of New York in 1875, graduated from the Columbia University School of Mines with an “Engineer of Mines” degree in 1879 at age 19, and in 1890 asked for (and was awarded) a Ph.D. based on his development of the tabulating system. In 1882 Hollerith joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he taught mechanical engineering and conducted his first experiments with punched cards.
He eventually moved to Washington, D.C., living in Georgetown, with a home on 29th Street and a business building at 31st Street and the C&O Canal, where today there is a commemorative plaque installed by IBM. He died in Washington D.C. of a heart attack.
Hollerith's grave at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown in Washington, D.C.
DEATH AND LEGACY
Hollerith is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Hollerith cards were named after Herman Hollerith, as were Hollerith strings and Hollerith constants.
His great-grandson, the Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, was the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, and another great-grandson, Randolph Marshall Hollerith, is an Episcopal priest and the dean of Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.