In Memoriam: Herbert A. Simon (1916-2001)

Herbert A. Simon
Herbert A. Simon

APS Fellow Herbert A. Simon, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Economics and many prestigious international scientific awards for his work in cognitive psychology and computer science, died February 9th at the age of 84.Simon, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died at Presbyterian University Hospital of Pittsburgh from complications from surgery in January. Until his recent illness, Simon was actively teaching and doing research.

Simon is widely considered to be a founder of the field of artificial intelligence. He made extensive use of the computer as a tool for both simulating human thinking and augmenting it with artificial intelligence.

His research ranged from computer science to psychology, administration and economics. The thread of continuity through all of his work was his interest in human decision-making and problem-solving processes and the implications of these processes for social institutions.

Simon was the keynote speaker at the Third Annual APS Convention in 1991.

In addition to APS, Simon was a Fellow or member of many other prominent professional and academic organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Economic Association, the American Psychological Association, the Econometric Society, the International Academy of Management, and the academic and scientific honoraries Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He also was an honorary member of the British Psychological Society.

In addition to an immense publications list that includes books and journal articles, Simon’s pursuits in the field of computer science and psychology were detailed in an autobiography, Models of My Life, published in 1991 and re-issued in 1996.

Models of Bounded Rationality, Simon’s volume of economics papers, and Sciences of the Artificial, about his work in the field of artificial intelligence, are considered to be classics. A fourth edition of Administrative Behavior was published in 1997, the 50th anniversary of its original date of publication.

Born in 1916 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Simon earned his bachelor’s (1936) and doctor’s (1943) degrees at the University of Chicago. He also held research and faculty positions at the University of California (Berkeley) and the Illinois Institute of Technology before going to Carnegie Mellon. More biographical information about Simon’s many research and teaching interests can be found at:

He is survived by his wife, Dorothea P. Simon, and three children, Katherine Simon Frank of Minneapolis, Peter A. Simon of Bryan, Texas, and Barbara M. Simon of Wilder, Vermont, six grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Note: An upcoming Observer will feature a memorial piece by some of Simon’s colleagues in the psychology department at Carnegie Mellon University.

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.