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Fascinating facts about Herman Hollerith inventor
of the punch card tabulating machine in 1890.
Herman Hollerith
Inventor: Herman Hollerith
Portrait of Hermen Hollerith derived from public domain
Criteria: First to invent. First to patent. First practical. Entrepreneur.
Birth: February 29, 1860 in Buffalo, New York
Death: November 17, 1929
Nationality: American

Herman Hollerith, American inventor, born in Buffalo, New York, and educated at Columbia University, who devised a system of encoding data on cards through a series of punched holes. This system proved useful in statistical work and was important in the development of the digital computer. Hollerith's machine, used in the 1890 U.S. census, "read" the cards by passing them through electrical contacts. Closed circuits, which indicated hole positions, could then be selected and counted. His Tabulating Machine Company (1896) was a predecessor to the International Business Machines Corporation.


The Entrepreneur    from The Great Idea Finder
History of Computing   from The Great Idea Finder

American Computer Pioneers
by Mary Northrup / Library Binding - 112 pages (July 1998) / Enslow Publishers, Inc.
This book covers major players in the development of the computer, from Herman Hollerith, the inventor of punch cards, through the inventors of ENIAC and UNIVAC, as well as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Marc Andreessen of Netscape.

Computers: An Illustrated History (Limited Availability)
by Christian Wurster / Hardcover: 480 pages / TASCHEN America Llc; (February 2002)

Discover the fascinating history of computers, interfaces, and computer design in this illustrated guide that includes pictures of nearly every computer ever made, an informative text describing the computer's evolution up to the present day

Punched Card Methods in Scientific Computation
by Wallace John Eckert / Hardcover Reprint edition (October 1984) / MIT Pr;
The publication of this book paved the way for computing in the 1940s. It applied the idea of machines which could read and record numbers to the field of scientific calculation previously dominated by logarithms and other tables of functions and hand operated machines for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers.
The First Computers--History and Architectures
by Ral Rojas (Editor) / Paperback: 471 pages / The MIT Press (August 7, 2002)
This history of computing focuses not on chronology (what came first and who deserves credit for it) but on the actual architectures of the first machines that made electronic computing a practical reality.

Herman Hollerith: The Pinched Card Machine
By the late 1930s punched-card machine techniques had become so well established and reliable that Howard Aiken, in collaboration with engineers at IBM, undertook construction of a large automatic digital computer based on standard IBM electromechanical parts.Article by Michelle A. Hoyle.
Hollerith, Herman
From the Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds.Herman Hollerith was inducyed in 1990 for his invention, Art of Compiling Statistics; Apparatus for Compiling Statistics, Patent Nos. 395,781; 395,782; 395,783.
International Business Machines
Official IBM Company history page. The company Hollerith helped form.
Herman Hollerith's Tabulating Machines
From this prototype, he evolved a mechanism that could read the presence or absence of holes in the cards by using spring-mounted nails that passed through the holes to make electrical connections.
Jacquard's Punched Cards
In the early 1800s, a French silk weaver called Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented a way of automatically controlling the warp and weft threads on a silk loom by recording patterns of holes in a string of cards.
Herman Hollerith: The World's First Statistical Engineer
by Mark Russo. The use of electricity as the driving force made Hollerith's tabulator attractive. Not only did the electric counter increase the speed and efficiency of the compilation of data, but it also overcame the problem that cog and gear intensive machines had.

US Census Bureau. 1890

Herman Hollerith describes his childhood days in school in a downloadable Quicktime video..
US Census Bureau History
This led to the first use of tabulating machines in the 1890 census, which counted nearly 63 million people. These punch-card machines, invented by former Census Bureau employee Herman Hollerith, evolved into computers when Hollerith founded what was to become the IBM Corp.


  • On, January 8, 1889 Dr. Herman Hollerith received a patent for his tabulating machine, one of the forerunners to modern computers. The machine was a counting and sorting device that made use of punched cards.
  • With the help of Hollerith's machine, the census of 1890 was completed on schedule.
  • As a young engineer he developed an electrically actuated brake system for the railroads, but the Westinghouse steam-actuated brake prevailed.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised October 23, 2006.

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