Renowned visionary Dr James Martin, who made Bermuda his home, dies at 79

  • <B>Dr James Martin:</B> Died at the age of 79

    Dr James Martin: Died at the age of 79


Futurologist and information technology colossus James Martin has died at the age of 79.

The Bermuda Police Service said that Dr Martin’s lifeless body had been found floating in the waters of the Great Sound near his Agar’s Island home at around 5.30pm on Monday by a kayaker.

A police spokesman said an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Dr Martin’s death is ongoing, but added: “There does not appear to be any suspicious circumstances.”

A family liaison officer has been assigned to Dr Martin’s family to assist them at this difficult time.

During his extraordinary life, Dr Martin created some of the building blocks of modern IT systems, made hundreds of millions of dollars through a business founded to teach other businesses on how to benefit from computers, wrote 104 textbooks and became the largest benefactor in the history of Oxford University. He was ranked fourth of the 25 most influential people in computer science by Computerworld.

The well-travelled Englishman became a Bermuda resident in the 1990s and in 1997, he bought Agar’s Island, in the Great Sound, off Point Shares, where he built an extraordinary home.

The renown he gained as a futurologist came about initially through his book “The Wired Society” in 1977, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and contained remarkably accurate descriptions of the use of computers and the internet 25 years later.

In his book ‘Technology’s Crucible’, published in 1987, there is a scenario that depicts Arab terrorists and a major terrorist attack on New York City in 1998.

Dr Martin’s work on the future made him very aware of the challenges likely to be faced by mankind over the next century, from climate change and feeding a booming population to the horrors of epidemics and high-tech war.

In 2006, he published a book describing the challenges, choices and different scenarios facing mankind in his book, ‘The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future’. He also produced a film based on the book, which was narrated by Michael Douglas.

A year before the book came out, Dr Martin had donated $100 million of his own money to set up the James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford, the aim of which was to bring together researchers from a wide range of scientific disciplines to work on innovative ways to deal with humanity’s biggest challenges. In 2010, it became Oxford Martin School, comprising 30 institutes, and Dr Martin donated another $50 million, an amount matched by other donors.

Professor Ian Goldin, the director of the school, said yesterday: “The Oxford Martin School embodies Jim’s concern for humanity, his creativity, his curiosity, and his optimism. Jim provided not only the founding vision, but was intimately involved with the school and our many programmes. We have lost a towering intellect, guiding visionary and a wonderful close friend.”

In a statement, the school described Dr Martin as “an inspiration to millions an extraordinary intellect, with wide-ranging interests, boundless energy and an unwavering commitment to addressing the greatest challenges facing humanity”.

It was at Oxford that Dr Martin received his scientific grounding, when he studied there on a scholarship for a physics degree in the 1950s.

In 1959, he joined the American computer firm IBM where he worked until the late 1970s. In the 1980s he formed his own technology consultancy firm, initially known as James Martin and Company and later Headstrong, which gained a leading-edge reputation for ultra-complex systems development.

From 1975 to 2001 Dr Martin gave five-day seminars on IT. Regarded as an expert in business as well as technology, he was constantly in demand to lecture to big audiences around the world.

Dr Martin is sometimes referred to in technology circles as as the “Father of CASE” (Computer-Aided Systems Engineering). This refers to tools that help automate software development. The original prototypes for the Texas Instruments and KnowledgeWare CASE tools were built in Dr Martin’s home under his direction. In the late 1980s these became the two leading CASE tools.

His legacy will perhaps be most apparent in his enabling of the continuing efforts of the school that bears his name to grapple with humanity’s biggest issues. As Professor Andrew Hamilton, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, said: “James Martin was a true visionary whose exceptional generosity established the Oxford Martin School, allowing researchers from across the disciplines to work together on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing humanity. His impact will be felt for generations to come, as through the school he has enabled researchers to address the biggest questions of the 21st century.”

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Published Jun 26, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 25, 2013 at 11:19 pm)

Renowned visionary Dr James Martin, who made Bermuda his home, dies at 79

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