Professor Jay W. Forrester

Jay W. Forrester SM ’45, professor emeritus in the MIT Sloan School of Management, founder of the field of system dynamics, and a pioneer of digital computing, died Nov. 16. He was 98 (1).

Forrester received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1939 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, was inducted in 1949 into Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) the Electrical & Computer Engineering Honor Society, 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, perfecting magnetic-core memory, and developing the "multi-coordinate digital information storage device" (coincident-current system), the forerunner of today's RAM. He is also believed to have created the first animation in the history of computer graphics, a "jumping ball" on an oscilloscope (2).

“Innovator and pioneer, Jay created a number of great things in diverse areas. But even if it was just the foundation of System Dynamics, he still would be considered as one of the few people in the 20th century who formed our understanding of how the world around us behaves. The System Dynamic method in simulation modeling is visual, simple and minimalistic in the number of constructs, but extremely powerful in capturing a wide range of dynamic phenomena,” says Dr. Andrei Borshchev, AnyLogic CEO.

In summary, Forrester’s impact did not rest at the idea of System Dynamics. He made significant contributions to a multitude of industries, as John Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at the Sloan School notes in a Boston Globe article,“from the air traffic control system to 3-D printers, from the software companies use to manage their supply chains to the simulations nations use to understand climate change, the world in which we live today was made possible by Jay’s work” (3).

  1. Church | MIT Sloan School of Management, Zach. "Professor Emeritus Jay Forrester, Digital Computing and System Dynamics Pioneer, Dies at 98." MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 19 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016..
  2. Katie Hafner, "Jay W. Forrester Dies at 98; a Pioneer in Computer Models", The New York Times, November 17, 2016
  3. Archives, MIT. "Jay W. Forrester, Computer Pioneer Who Founded System Dynamics Modeling, Dies at 98 - The Boston Globe." 2016 BOSTON GLOBE MEDIA PARTNERS, LLC, 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.