Corporations have conducted so-called research to fuel their invention of new products for generations. But Thomas J. Watson Sr.’s decision that IBM would do “pure” scientific research was an extraordinary leap of faith—and one that has generated extraordinary results. Breakthrough innovations by IBM scientists range from familiar transformative inventions like the hard drive or DRAM to a range of less familiar—but equally important—innovations in processor technology, relational databases, networking and more. They also include “pure” mathematical breakthroughs, such as fast Fourier transforms, and deep science, such as superconductivity.

IBM has owned the record for the largest number of US patents held by a single organization for 18 years running. In 2010, IBM broke its own record by receiving 5896 patents, up from 4914 in 2009.

#### Scientific discoveries at IBM Research

##### Fractal geometry

IBM mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot captivated the public imagination in 1967 when he introduced the breakthrough geometric concept of fractals—fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts that are exact reduced-size copies of the whole. Mandelbrot worked at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center for 32 years, applying fractal geometry to natural forms such as coastlines and clouds, and to disciplines as diverse as economics and the arts. The widely referenced Mandelbrot set, pictured here, depicts a fractal.

##### High-temperature superconductivity

J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller were researchers at IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory when they discovered high-temperature superconductivity in a new class of materials—ceramics. Ceramic materials required significantly less cooling than previous-generation superconductors. High-temperature superconductivity helps scientists measure small magnetic fields, and aids advances in fields including geophysical exploration, medical diagnostics and magnetically levitated transportation. The discovery earned Bednorz and Müller the 1987 Nobel Prize in Physics.

##### Optimizing compilers

IBM Fellow Emerita Frances Allen pioneered the field of optimizing compilers, widely regarded as a seminal computing advancement. Compilers are sets of programs that translate programming languages into binary computer language, and the rapid speed of today’s high-performance computers depends on them. Allen became the first female IBM Fellow in 1989, and was honored with the prestigious A.M. Turing Award—the Nobel Prize for computing— for 2006.