Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Computing Laboratory

TheComputing Laboratory at 180 George Street, a gift of the widow and son of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., was dedicated in his memory on January 12, 1961. The IBM7070 computer which it was built to house, the first of this system installed on the Eastern seaboard, was acquired through a grant from the National Science Foundation and the generosity of the IBM Corporation. Philip Johnson was architect of the building, and Conrad Green ’36 of Providence was supervising architect. Johnson wrote, “I conceived the Brown Computing Laboratory as a porticus – a porch – to emphasize its importance as a technical center, its unique setting in the cityscape and its dignity as a memorial building. Though neo-Classical, therefore in conception, the materials and the design of the columns are quite contemporary. Only precast stone could have been used to form the X’s of the entablature; only plate glass could render the porch usable in New England. By use of the red granite chips, I thought to harmonize the Laboratory with the 19th century which surrounds it.” The tapestry from a design of Arshile Gorki was given by Philip Johnson and hung in the building. After the opening of the Center for Information Technology in 1988, the Computing Laboratory building was reassigned for the use of the Applied Mathematics Division.

The words on the plaque placed in the Brown University Computing Laboratory in 1987 are, “given by Thomas J. Watson, Jr. ’37, son, and Jeannette K. Watson, wife, in honor of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., who, from the days of the punched card tabulators to the first years of the computer era, led IBM, as chairman, to the creation of machines that would attack the great problems of science and mathematics previously out of the reach of human capability.”