Inventors are inspirational. Herman Hollerith was an inventor and a businessman. He invented the electromechanical punched card tabulator. It assisted in summarizing data and later accounting. His machine is seen today as the precursor of the modern computer.
Herman Hollerith was born in Buffalo, New York on February 29, 1860. When he was just 15, he began the City College of New York. He was an engineering student. He graduated from the Columbia School Of Mines in 1879. He got a job with a former teacher, William Petit Trowbridge, at the U.S. Census Bureau. He wrote and published the article “Report on the Statistics of Steam and Water-Power Used in the Manufacture of Iron and Steel” in 1888. There was problems with dealing with large amounts of information from the census by hand.
At the Census Bureau, Hollerith met Dr. John Shaw Billings and his daughter Kate, whom he dated. Dr. Billings was the head of the Department of Vital Statistics. Billings’ idea is believed to have been inspiration to Hollerith when he created the punched card tabulating machine. In 1882, Hollerith briefly was an instructor of mechanical engineering at MIT. He experimented and designed an electrically activated brake system for railroads that wasn’t chosen by the railroads. In 1884, Hollerith took a job with the U.S. Patent Office. He stayed until 1890. During this time he experimented with a punched card tabulating machine. Jacquard’s mechanical loom was inspiration. He incorporated electricity. When counters used his machine, gathering data was much quicker than by hand. Also in 1884, Hollerith was awarded a patent. Hollerith continued to make improvements.
In 1890, his machine was used with that year’s census. The time it took counting data was greatly reduced and it saved the U.S. millions of dollars. Other countries began using Hollerith’s machines and they began to be used for other purposes. In 1896, Hollerith started the Tabulating Machine Company. In 1911, the company merged with two other companies to become the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. He was a consulting engineer until he retired in 1921. In 1924, the merged company became International Business Machines (IBM).
Herman Hollerith married Lucia Beverly Talcott on September 15, 1890. They had six children. Hollerith was awarded the Elliot Cresson medal for his outstanding invention that year as well. In 1892, he received the World’s Columbian Exposition Bronze Medal. Hollerith suffered from heart disease during the last years of his life. He died in Washington, D.C. at home on November 17, 1929. He became part of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. Be inspired! Have a bright day!