Martin, a veteran of IBM and later an independent consultant who held honorary doctorates from all six continents, was a familiar figure at computer industry conferences, where his often-provocative visionary statements about business and societal trends drew large crowds. Martin also wrote prolifically on technical matters such as programming, system design and networks. Computerworld magazine ranked Martin fourth on their list of the 25 individuals who have most influenced the world of computer science.
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As the author of 104 books, Martin was the first British citizen ever appointed to the Department of Defense software scientific advisory board.
Martin's Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, The Wired Society (Prentice-Hall, 1978) -- a prescient look at an emerging digital factor in our lives -- was seen by many as a foreshadowing of the World Wide Web. Another of his books, The Meaning of the 21st Century (Riverhead Trade, 2007), was later made into a film narrated by Michael Douglas.
Martin was also a major contributor to his alma mater, the University of Oxford, which honors him as the ancient institution's most generous single benefactor. Though it was never confirmed, he was believed to have underwritten the University's interdisciplinary Oxford Martin School in 2005. The School's home page currently pays tribute to Martin, noting that more than 300 post-doctorate scholars and professors are now working across the university on topics ranging from the future of food to the implications of an aging population, new economic thinking and nanotechnology in medicine.
Oxford's vice-chancellor professor Andrew Hamilton wrote, "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."
"We have lost a towering intellect, guiding visionary and a wonderful close friend," added the school's director, Professor Ian Goldin.
Martin was born in Leicestershire and studied physics at Keble College, Oxford, before joining IBM. He set up a number of consulting firms after he left Big Blue in the early 1980s.