chapter  1
25 Pages

Priest walks into the CEO's office

The Meeting between Father Roberto Busa, S.J. and Thomas J. Watson, Sr. of IBM, November 1949

Father Roberto Busa, S. J. had come to the US looking for financial and technical support for an ambitious research project. He planned to create a massive concordance to the 13th-century philosophical and theological Latin writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, and he had decided to explore the possibility of using "some type of machinery" to automate the laborious process. For his thesis at the Papal Gregorian University in Rome, Father Busa's research on "The Thomistic Terminology of Interiority," had focused on a linguistic point of departure: the Latin preposition "in" and its meanings in context. The existence of the brand-new World Trade Corporation is a likely motivating factor for IBM's agreeing to support the Italian scholar's project. For the first few years, Busa worked mostly at IBM Italia in Milan; it would have cost the company little to allow the scholar-priest to use what was to some degree surplus machinery, even with the addition of technical support.