Thomas J. Watson was a pioneer in the development of accounting and computing equipment used today by business, government, science and industry. He built a worldwide industry during his 42 years at IBM.
Mr. Watson was born in Campbell, N.Y., February 17, 1874. His first job was at age 18 as a bookkeeper in Clarence Risley's Market in Painted Post, N.Y. Later he sold sewing machines and musical instruments before joining the National Cash Register Company as a salesman in Buffalo. He eventually worked his way up to general sales manager. Bent on inspiring the dispirited NCR sales force, Mr. Watson introduced the motto, "THINK," which later became a widely known symbol of IBM.
Throughout his life, Mr. Watson maintained a deep interest in international relations. He adopted for IBM the slogan, "World Peace Through World Trade," worked closely with the International Chamber of Commerce and in 1937 was elected its president. For many years Mr. Watson served as a trustee of Columbia University and Lafayette College. He was presented with honorary degrees by 27 colleges and universities in the United States and four abroad.
Mr. Watson was named chairman in September 1949. A month before his death on June 19, 1956, Mr. Watson handed over the reins of the company to his eldest son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Another son, Arthur K. Watson, served as president of IBM World Trade Corp., the company's international operations.