William Edwards Deming


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(1900–93; b. Sioux City, IA; d. Washington, DC.)

American engineer and statistician. Deming was a pioneer of quality control. He was voted by business staff of the Los Angeles Times as being one of the 50 most influential business people of the century, though he described himself as ‘Consultant in Statistical Studies’. He studied electrical engineering at U Wyoming, graduating in 1921. As a summer job he worked for the Western Electric Company in Chicago where he encountered Shewhart's work on quality control. He obtained his MS in mathematics and mathematical physics from U Colorado in 1925 and his PhD from Yale U in 1928. He began working first for the US Department of Agriculture and then for the US Bureau of the Census. In 1947 he spent three months in Japan helping with the Japanese census. On his return to Japan in 1950 he gave an extended course in quality control; the course was so successful and influential that he was invited back on many occasions, being received by Emperor Hirohito and awarded the Second Order of the Sacred Treasure. He was President of the IMS in 1945. In 1955 he was awarded the Shewhart Medal of the ASQ, in 1983 the Wilks Award of the ASA, and in 1987 the National Medal for Technology. He once wrote ‘The only useful function of a statistician is to make predictions and thus to provide a basis for action’.

Subjects: Probability and Statistics — Management and Management Techniques.

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