James Martin Dead at 79
We don't have that many people in our field who have been as original and prolific as James Martin, and have influenced so many people in our field.
James Martin, world famous tech writer, has died near his private island in Bermuda at age 79. An autopsy is pending, and authorities report the body was found in waters near his home on Agar's Island. Mr. Martin leaves behind his wife, Lillian, a daughter, two grandchildren, and four stepchildren.
Those of us whose time in the tech field is measured in decades will recall the dozens of books he published (he actually wrote over 100), and the widely acclaimed lectures he gave around the world. He was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his book "The Wired Society."
The first of Mr. Martin's books I read was "Telecommunications and the Computer" (it's still on my shelf), which I got around 1976. I was selling telex service and analog private lines for ITT World Communications at the time, and this was my first serious dive into the technology I was working with. I'd been an English major in school, and Mr. Martin's book convinced me that I could actually understand this stuff I was working with, and was instrumental in convincing me I should stick with this telecommunications thing I fell into by accident.
I got to meet James Martin at his home in Stowe, VT when I appeared in a video he was making about emerging communications technologies in the 1980s--if memory serves me right, I was talking about ISDN. He was taller than I expected, and very humble and gracious. The house was just up the hill from the estate of the Von Trapp family who were made famous in "The Sound of Music."
What I didn't realize was that besides buying his own island, Mr. Martin had become a major philanthropist and the largest private donor to Oxford University, which he attended in the 1950s. He gave more than $150 million to help establish the Oxford Martin School, which researches global issues, challenges and opportunities facing humanity in the 21st century.
We don't have that many people in our field who have been as original and prolific as James Martin, and have influenced so many people in our field. Mr. Martin was an icon, and it is sad to hear of his passing.