Word Challenges

Herman Hollerith was born in 1860. His parents were German immigrants. He struggled in school and his parents home-schooled him after he jumped out of a grade school window to avoid a spelling test.

The 1880 consensus was the stimulus for the idea that would make Herman famous. The idea was a punched card which could be used for data tabulations. The card, when combined with a mechanical tabulator, could be used to compile statistical information. He received patent protection for his device.

Herman formed the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896 and started working with census agencies around the world. Herman then expanded the reach of his company by inventing a card feeder and a keypunch. These became the basis of the data processing industry. What Herman developed in the latter half of the 19th Century became the standard until the second half of the 20th Century.

Herman went on to merge his company with four others to form a new company” the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). The name was later changed to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

Herman Hollerith died at the age of 69, leaving behind a legacy that was the foundation of an entire new industry. Just imagine how a student who struggled in school would have had such success in life. His struggles were due to him being dyslexic. Dyslexia wasn’t clinically identified until 1881, long after Herman’s time in school. Fortunately he received support at home and was able to succeed in his education.

Neurodiversity is still misunderstood, but just imagine what society would have missed without the contributions of others with dyslexia: Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and George Washington. Schools are better equipped today to support students with dyslexia, but we can only imagine that there are students with limited resources where talent like Herman Hollerith is going undeveloped.

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“The biggest problem with dyslexic kids is not the perceptual problem, it is their perception of themselves. That was my biggest problem.” – Bruce Jenner (Olympic Gold Medalist)

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