During his time as CEO and chairman of the company, Welch gained the nickname "Neutron Jack" for cutting thousands of jobs as he bought and sold businesses to grow the business.
Under his leadership, Welch bought and sold scores of companies and expanded the industrial giant into financial services and then consulting.
That work grew the market value of the company form $12 billion to $410 billion.
But, according to Reuters, the push into financial services nearly meant the end for the company during the 2008 financial crisis, seven years after his 2001 retirement.
He first became a part of GE leadership in December 1980, when it was announced that he would succeed CEO Reginald Jones. In April of the next year he took over as eighth chairman and CEO.
The GE website says he was born in 1935, and received his BS degree in chemical engineering form the University of Massachusetts, in 1957. He later received his MS and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois, in 1960.
He joined GE originally as a chemical engineer in 1960, when he joined the plastics division in Massachusetts.
He was then elected the company's youngest vice president in 1972, and became vice chairman in 1979.
He was named "Manager of the Century" by Fortune Magazine in 1999, and was named one of the three most admired business leaders in the world by the Financial Times.
Reuters contributed to this report
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