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Icons of Progress

Automated Test Scoring

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk, and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Reynold B. Johnson 

    Reynold Johnson

    Reynold Johnson was just looking for a way to make his job as a high school science and math teacher in Ironwood, Michigan, easier—to automate the scoring of multiple choice tests. In 1932, he came up with a system that he called a “lazy teacher’s gimmick.” In the face of budget cuts, he lost his job in 1933. Johnson approached IBM with his “gimmick” and met with IBM engineers in New York. Although the idea was initially rejected, IBM ultimately purchased Johnson’s invention and hired him as an engineer in the company’s Endicott labs. Johnson helped develop the idea into the IBM 805 Test Scoring Machine, introduced in 1936. It was the first of more than 50 inventions Johnson devised at Endicott. Although he was best known for his work on the IBM RAMAC disk storage system, Johnson returned to his first focus, education, later in life, inventing numerous educational toys after his retirement. Johnson was named an IBM Fellow in 1965, and received many awards throughout his career. These included the Founder's Gold Medal from the Educational Records Bureau in 1997, the Computer Pioneer Award from the IEEE in 1987, and the Magnetics Society Award for Information Storage in 1989. In addition, with more than 90 patents to his name, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1986.

  • Ben Wood 

    Ben Wood

    In the early 1930s, Ben Wood, a professor at Columbia University and a close advisor to IBM CEO Thomas Watson, was working with IBM to find ways to improve the objectivity and reliability of evaluating students, when Rey Johnson wrote to him with a description of his test scoring invention. Wood thought Johnson’s ideas had merit and he facilitated a meeting with IBM engineers. When the engineers rejected Johnson’s invention, Wood called Watson and told him his company was making a mistake. Watson interceded, and Johnson was hired to bring the IBM 805 to market. Wood was a pioneer in applying technology to education and a long-time collaborator with IBM.