Apparently written under company or family auspices (it comes to the same as the book makes plain), this biography of Thomas J. Watson bears the usual stigmata of an official life. Watson created IBM out of a nearly bankrupt holding company; he so dominated the firm that, though he never owned more than 3% of the stock, he could dictate the rule of white shirts and his son's succession. He exerted an extraordinary influence and power over even the highest officials around him. His paternalistic policies, his demands for company loyalty, his evangelicanism, his social climbing (he would borrow money in order to play the rich philanthropist) will evoke either contempt or admiration as the case may be; but one cannot remain indifferent to him. His biographers should be either venomous critics or defenders who can so create a sense of his powerful personality that one falls under his spell and understands all. But the Beldens are neither of these things. They maintain a respectful distance from their subject, and a benign attitude towards all -- the hard questions are either not asked, or are turned away with soothing on-the- contraries. This is a cool-mannered company book, not the searching biography Watson deserves.