Watson, Thomas J., Jr.

Watson, Thomas J., Jr.
▪ 1994

      U.S. business executive (b. Jan. 8, 1914, Dayton, Ohio—d. Dec. 31, 1993, Greenwich, Conn.), inherited the leadership of International Business Machines Corp. from his father and propelled the company into the computer age. After graduating (1937) from Brown University, Providence, R.I., Watson joined IBM as a junior salesman while his father presided at the company's helm. In 1946, after returning from service in the Army Air Forces, he quickly moved through the ranks at IBM, becoming a vice president in that year, executive vice president in 1949, and finally president in 1952 (as his father became chairman). The younger Watson ardently pushed for the company to reach beyond tabulating machines and enter the nascent computer industry. IBM finally did so, though later than its rivals; IBM's first large automated system (the IBM 701) was unveiled in 1952. In 1956 Watson became chairman when his father retired. (The elder Watson died six weeks later.) Watson's aggressive tactics and heavy outlays for research established IBM's dominance in the industry so thoroughly that the U.S. government filed an antitrust suit against the company in 1969. (The case was dropped in 1982.) By the time Watson retired in 1971, IBM's stock had increased in value by more than $36 billion from when he gained the chairmanship. Watson later—from 1979 to 1981—served as ambassador to Moscow. In his memoirs, Father, Son & Co. (1990; with Peter Petre), Watson detailed his often stormy relationship with his father.

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Universalium. 2010.

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