A Buffalo-born inventor whose census-counting work led to the computer and IBM will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in April, center organizers announced in Washington and Akron, Ohio.
Herman J. Hollerith, born here on the Feb. 29 "leap day" of 1860, will be honored for his invention of the punched card in data processing.
In 1896, long after he left the Buffalo area for schooling and a career, Hollerith organized Tabulating Machine Co., a firm that, through mergers, eventually became International Business Machines.
After graduating from the Columbia University School of Mines in 1879, he assisted a former teacher in running the 1880 federal census. During the next decade he worked briefly at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Patent Office and experimented with air brakes while keeping up steady work on a census automation system.
He invented a system that used holes punched in a non-conducting material to "read" electrical currents and compile counts and statistics.
A precursor of the electronic computer, his invention won a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition and was widely adapted in Europe for statistical purposes.
In the United States, its use in automating the national census in 1890 was credited with saving the Census Bureau two years and $5 million.
Hollerith, who died in Washington in 1929, will be one of 10 American inventors inducted into the hall during April ceremonies in Akron, where Hall of Fame supporters are seeking $50 million for a museum and programs.