Jay Wright Forrester

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Jay Wright Forrester
File:Jay Forrester.jpg
Born (1918-07-14) July 14, 1918 (age 104)
Anselmo, Nebraska
Institutions MIT Sloan School of Management (1956)
Alma mater University of Nebraska–Lincoln (B.S., 1939)
MIT (M.S., 1945)
Known for MIT Whirlwind
Random-access memory
Notable awards IEEE Medal of Honor (1972)
Howard N. Potts Medal
National Medal of Technology and Innovation (1989)
Computer History Museum Fellow (1995)[1]

Jay Wright Forrester (born July 14, 1918) is an American pioneering computer engineer and systems scientist. He was a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Forrester is known as the founder of system dynamics, which deals with the simulation of interactions between objects in dynamic systems.

Forrester had as his colleague for a time, C.Robert Wieser. [2]


Forrester was born on a farm near Anselmo, Nebraska, where "his early interest in electricity was spurred, perhaps, by the fact that the ranch had none. While in high school, he built a wind-driven, 12-volt electrical system using old car parts — it gave the ranch its first electric power."[3]

Forrester received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1939 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and went on to graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he would spend his entire career. During the 1940s and early 50s, he did research in electrical and computer engineering, heading the Whirlwind project and developing the "Multi-coordinate digital information storage device"[4] (coincident-current system), the forerunner of today's RAM. He is believed to have created the first animation in the history of computer graphics, a "jumping ball" on an oscilloscope.

In 1956, Forrester moved to the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he is currently Germeshausen Professor Emeritus and Senior Lecturer. In 1961, he wrote about the expanding effects down the supply chains due to fluctuations in demand, thenceforth known as the "Forrester effect" or Bull whip effect.[5] In 1982, he received the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award.[6] In 1995, he was made a Fellow[7] of the Computer History Museum for his perfecting of core memory technology into a practical computer memory device; for fundamental contributions to early computer systems design and development. In 2006, he was inducted into the Operational Research Hall of Fame.

Forrester is the founder of system dynamics, which deals with the simulation of interactions between objects in dynamic systems. Industrial Dynamics was the first book Forrester wrote using system dynamics to analyze industrial business cycles. Several years later, interactions with former Boston Mayor John F. Collins led Forrester to write Urban Dynamics, which sparked an ongoing debate on the feasibility of modeling broader social problems.

The urban dynamics model attracted the attention of urban planners around the world, eventually leading Forrester to meet a founder of the Club of Rome. He later met with the Club of Rome to discuss issues surrounding global sustainability; the book World Dynamics followed. World Dynamics took on modeling the complex interactions of the world economy, population and ecology, which understandably met with much misunderstanding (see also Donella Meadows and Limits to Growth). Forrester has made numerous other contributions to system dynamics and has promoted system dynamics in education to the present day.

See also


Forrester has written several books, articles and papers. Books, a selection:

  • 1961. Industrial dynamics. Waltham, MA: Pegasus Communications.
  • 1968. Principles of Systems, 2nd ed. Pegasus Communications.
  • 1969. Urban Dynamics. Pegasus Communications.
  • 1971. World Dynamics. Wright-Allen Press.[8]
  • 1975. Collected Papers of Jay W. Forrester. Pegasus Communications.

Articles and papers, a selection:


  1. Jay W. Forrester 1995 Fellow
  2. P.N. Edwards - The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America MIT Press 1997 (reprint, revised) Inside technology, 440 pages, ISBN 0262550288 [Retrieved 2015-08-06]
  3. Biography Jay Forrester. on thocp.net, 2005. Accessed August 18, 2013
  4. Multicoordinate digital information storage device, US patent 2736880
  5. Lee; Padmanabhan; Zhang (15 April 1997). "The Bullwhip Effect in Supply Chains". MIT Solan Review of Management (Spring 1997). Retrieved 24 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Computer Pioneer Award". Retrieved 2006-05-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. CHM. "Jay W. Forrester— CHM Fellow Award Winner". Retrieved March 30, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[1]
  8. World3
  9. This article is from Industrial Management Review, Vol. IX, No. 2, Winter 1968. This classic system dynamics paper discusses why having enough capacity to meet demand is so important for a new company.
  10. HTML version.
  11. This provides a personal point of view about the development of system dynamics.
  12. This paper presents views on how system dynamics may improve classroom learning.
  13. This paper explains the advantages of a system dynamics education for the future.
  14. Writing on using system dynamics in kindergarten through twelfth grade education.
  15. English version of the paper Prof. Jay Forrester presented at the University of Seville on December 15th, 1998. This paper talks about how Dr. Forrester believes system dynamics will help in understanding the many complex systems in our society.
  16. In this paper Forrester explains his view that without including system dynamics concepts and principles, systems thinking runs the risk of being superficial and prone to assuming counterproductive conclusions.

External links