Deming, W. Edwards

Deming, W. (William) Edwards

(1900–93) statistician, management consultant; born in Sioux City, Iowa. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Wyoming, worked briefly at Western Electric's Hawthorn plant (outside Chicago), took a Ph.D. at Yale in mathematical physics (1927), and then went to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over the ensuing years he developed statistical sampling techniques that were first used in the 1940 U.S. census. He served as a consultant to the U.S. War department during World War II and at the end of World War II, he had begun to develop broader concepts of efficient management; in 1947 the American occupation authorities brought him to Japan to lecture the Japanese on this subject. He made such an impression that in 1950 the Japanese business community invited him back and from then on he became a constant visitor to Japan, preaching the gospel of quality control through the statistical control of manufacturing processes. He is considered to have contributed significantly to that country's industrial resurgence since World War II; since 1951 the Deming Award has been Japan's highest honor for the business community, and in 1960 he was awarded Japan's Second Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure. Although he taught occasionally at New York University and Columbia business schools, major American companies were slow to recognize the value of his techniques, but starting in the 1980s he found himself giving countless seminars to many American businesses. Although he has been called the "messiah of management" and "curmudgeon of quality," his business card read simply, "Consultant in Statistical Studies." His several books include Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position (1982).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.