James Martin – British computing pioneer, entrepreneur, visionary and guru of the information age – has died, aged 79.
The multimillionaire author, lecturer, business leader and futurist will be remembered for his intellect and philanthropy, having over a period of 24 years donated in excess of £100m to Oxford University.
In the computer industry it is for his celebrated books and global lecture tours that many of us remember Martin best. "Some universities are still using text books which I wrote 30 years ago," he once said.
Through his lectures, books (over 100), and videotapes, he influenced and inspired millions of information technology professionals. His "son et lumiere" worldwide series of five-day seminars were legendary in the industry and attracted sell-out audiences of high-level executives seeking to hear about the future of technology and its effects on their businesses and lives. His book, The Wired Society famously earned him a nomination for a Pulitzer prize.
As a philanthropist and the largest donor to a UK university, Martin said "I find it strange that I am actually the largest individual benefactor to Oxford University in its 900-year history. I very much want to make something happen and create something I really believe in. That means investing in great people."
For Martin, the greatest manifestation of this investment and his enduring legacy was the establishment of the Oxford Martin School, founded in 2005 and housing 30 institutes with over 300 post-doctorate scholars and professors.
Martin said: “The world must have global universities dealing with global interdisciplinary problems. So the purpose of the school is to take the biggest problems of the planet and the biggest opportunities, and understand and research them in order to make a huge difference to the planet.”
There was a real feeling of pride that Martin was making a difference with his benefactions. "It makes me realise I have started something which is going to make an extraordinary difference long after I have gone.”
James Martin died swimming in the waters surrounding his private island off Bermuda.
Read a Computer Weekly interview with James Martin.