Jay Forrester Tributes

We were sad to learn of the death of the founder of System Dynamics, Jay W. Forrester. Here are personal tributes from members of the UK Chapter. There are many more tributes on the SDS website.

“In autumn 1975 I left England to join the doctoral program at MIT. I remember vividly arriving in Cambridge, Massachusetts under New England’s crystal blue skies and searching out the headquarters of the System Dynamics Group in Building E40 across from the Sloan School. Over the next few years Jay Forrester became a familiar presence in my life. He was reserved, self-contained, clear thinking – yet welcoming. In the summer of 1977 he invited me to visit his family ranch in the Sandhills district of Nebraska. I was driving across the US with my wife Linda. We arrived at the ranch, ten square miles of rolling territory, to be greeted by Jay at the farm gate. He was wearing his cowboy hat, boots and riding gear. The contrast with his normal MIT attire (smart suit and tie) was astounding. Yet it made sense. He’d grown up among homestead pioneers and he went on to become an academic pioneer; an original thinker-and-doer, self-sufficient, fearless and rigorous. He and his wife Susan made us feel at home during our brief stay as they shared their homestead life. We strode around the grounds. Jay asked us to join him on horseback; but we were not skilled riders. He said he’d never learned to ride a bike. He told us of Nebraska storms so violent and intense that the brilliance of lightning was broken only by flashes of darkness.”

Dr John Morecroft,  Senior Fellow, Management Science and Operations, London Business School

“It is the continuing ability of system dynamics to offer plausible explanations for seemingly puzzling phenomena across a wide range of disciplines that is a key measure of Forrester’s contribution and that explains the attraction of system dynamics to academic researchers, school teachers, consultants, managers and policy-makers. Forrester’s publications continue to illuminate the field of system dynamics. His books richly reward reading today and we are still teasing out their subtlety and insight. His ideas will long continue to present the field with challenges for its future.

We should not be surprised. From the Sand Hills of Nebraska to the MIT servo- mechanism laboratory, from the Marshall Islands to the dawn of the computer age, from Industrial Dynamics to World Dynamics, from corporate boardrooms to elementary school classrooms, Jay Wright Forrester lived his entire life on the frontier.”

Prof David C Lane, FORS, Henley Business School

“Jay made an immense contribution to the world and changed my life dramatically.

I first read his book ‘Industrial Dynamics’ whilst working as a Purchasing Manager in British Coal in 1975. I was in a job I had resorted to having been disillusioned by Operational Research and esoteric computer models. I could see immediately that the transparency of continuous feedback simulation had much more to offer. I gave up a very secure job and took great risk with my life, and my family’s lives, to follow his path. I have never regretted this.

I had close contact with Jay during the establishment of the System Dynamics Society and the establishment of the System Dynamics Review and when I ran the International System Dynamics conference at Stirling University in Scotland. I remember well that the latter was on his 76th birthday.

I found him to be a modest and slightly shy man with a dry sense of humour and an intense passion for what he did. He will be sadly missed at a time when the world needs his thinking most.”

Professor Eric Wolstenholme, UK