Paul Julius Reuter worked at a book-publishing firm in Berlin and was involved in distributing radical pamphlets at the beginning of the Revolutions in 1848. These publications brought much attention to Reuter, who in 1850 developed a prototype news service in Aachen using homing pigeons and electric telegraphy from 1851 on in order to transmit messages between Brussels and Aachen, in what today is Aachen's Reuters House.
Reuter moved to London in 1851, and established a news wire agency at the London Royal Exchange. Headquartered in London, Reuter's company initially covered commercial news, serving banks, brokerage houses, and business firms. The first newspaper client to subscribe was the London Morning Advertiser in 1858. Afterwards more newspapers signed up, with Britannica Encyclopedia writing that "the value of Reuters to newspapers lay not only in the financial news it provided but in its ability to be the first to report on stories of international importance." Reuter's agency built a reputation in Europe and the rest of the world as the first to report news scoops from abroad. It was the first to report Abraham Lincoln's assassination in Europe, for instance, in 1865.
In 1865, Reuter incorporated his private business, under the name Reuter's Telegram Company Limited; Reuter was appointed managing director of the company.
In 1872, Reuter's expanded into the far east, followed by South America in 1874. Both expansions were made possible by advances in overland telegraphs and undersea cables. In 1878, Reuter retired as managing director. In 1883, Reuter's began transmitting messages electrically to London newspapers.
The company returned to private ownership in 1916, with all shares purchased by Roderick Jones and Mark Napier; they renamed the company "Reuters Limited", dropping the apostrophe. In 1923, Reuters began using radio to transmit news internationally, a pioneering act. In 1925, The Press Association (PA) of Great Britain acquired a majority interest in Reuters, and full ownership some years later. During the world wars, The Guardian reported that Reuters "came under pressure from the British government to serve national interests. In 1941 Reuters deflected the pressure by restructuring itself as a private company." The new owners formed the Reuters Trust. In 1941, the PA sold half of Reuters to the Newspaper Proprietors' Association, and co-ownership was expanded in 1947 to associations that represented daily newspapers in New Zealand and Australia. The Reuters Trust Principles were put in place to maintain the company's independence. At that point, Reuters had become "one of the world's major news agencies, supplying both text and images to newspapers, other news agencies, and radio and television broadcasters." Also at that point, it directly or through national news agencies provided service "to most countries, reaching virtually all the world's leading newspapers and many thousands of smaller ones," according to Britannica.
In 1961, Reuters scooped news of the erection of the Berlin Wall. Reuters was one of the first news agencies to transmit financial data over oceans via computers in the 1960s. In 1973, Reuters "began making computer-terminal displays of foreign-exchange rates available to clients." In 1981, Reuters began making electronic transactions on its computer network and afterwards developed a number of electronic brokerage and trading services. Reuters was floated as a public company in 1984, when Reuters Trust was listed on the stock exchanges such as the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and NASDAQ. Reuters later published the first story of the Berlin Wall being breached in 1989.
The share price grew during the dotcom boom, then fell after the banking troubles in 2001. In 2002, Britannica wrote that most news throughout the world came from three major agencies: the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse. Reuters merged with Thomson Corporation in Canada in 2008, forming Thomson Reuters. In 2009, Thomson Reuters withdrew from the LSE and the NASDAQ, instead listing its shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. The last surviving member of the Reuters family founders, Marguerite, Baroness de Reuter, died at age 96 on 25 January 2009. The parent company Thomson Reuters is headquartered in Toronto, and provides financial information to clients while also maintaining its traditional news-agency business.
In 2012, Thomson Reuters appointed Jim Smith as CEO. Almost every major news outlet in the world subscribed to Reuters as of 2014. Reuters operated in more than 200 cities in 94 countries in about 20 languages as of 2014. In July 2016, Thomson Reuters agreed to sell its intellectual property and science operation for $3.55 billion to private equity firms. In October 2016, Thomson Reuters announced expansions and relocations to Toronto. As part of cuts and restructuring, in November 2016, Thomson Reuters Corp. eliminated 2,000 worldwide jobs out of its around 50,000 employees.