James Martin, Technology Consultant and Oxford Benefactor, Dies at 79

He was a widely known information technology consultant, whose London business became an international company known as Headstrong, which caters to the financial services industry. He conducted hundreds of five-day seminars for executives on the link between technology and business.

More recently his interest was in identifying global problems — climate change, overpopulation, environmental withering — that have been worsened by past technologies and that he asserted could be addressed by new ones.

In a book, “The Meaning of the 21st Century,” and a film he made in conjunction with it, Mr. Martin argued that the human race had only a short time to change its wasteful ways before the planet was irreparably harmed. The technology to solve the problems is either available or developing; what is missing is broad education and political will, he said.

“A naïve view of the past is that technology gives us mastery over nature,” he said in the film. “A more appropriate view is that advanced technology causes us to need even more advanced technology in order to survive.”

In 2005, Mr. Martin gave $100 million to the University of Oxford, his alma mater, to establish what was then called the James Martin 21st Century School, aimed at promoting interdisciplinary research on global issues. In 2009, Mr. Martin, the single most generous benefactor in the university’s history, agreed to give as much as $50 million more if the sum were matched by outside donations; by the next year, it was. The school, now known as the Oxford Martin School, focuses on four areas: health and medicine, energy and the environment, technology and society, and ethics and governance.

He also was a benefactor of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, which is affiliated with Middlebury College in Vermont. At his death, he had finished a book about weapons of mass destruction,…

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