Anthony Stafford Beer

September 26, 1926 – August 23, 2002

Brief Biography

Anthony Stafford Beer was a leading figure in operations research in the United Kingdom and a Frederick W. Lanchester Prize recipient. Beer was born in Putney, South West London and, at age fifteen, decided that he wanted to become a philosopher. Frustrated by his school’s restrictive educational path, he got himself expelled and went on to study at University College London. Beer left school to join the Royal Artillery in 1944 and never returned to a formal education. He remained with the British Army after the Second World as a Staff Captain for Intelligence in Punjab, India. It wasn’t until after he returned from India that Beer learned that much of what he was doing abroad was actually operations research.

Beer was appointed as an Army psychologist after tiring of “marching troops up and down” in peacetime. He convinced the Army to setup an education center where he researched psychopathology and illiteracy as the commanding officer. Beer left for a civilian position at United Steel in 1949. There, he set up a small operations research group and was responsible for implementing a production control system that he had designed. Beer was not a mathematician but managed to attract people who were gifted in the subject through smart advertising.

Beer’s operations research group was widely considered eccentric as far as traditional British industrialists were concerned. He reinforced the unconventional image of the group with cybernetically inspired projects. Beer was responsible for the invention of the stochastic analogue machine, one of the first special purpose analogue computers. It made the step from analogue to digital in 1956. He left United Steel to help start-up Science in General Management (SIGMA), a specialized OR consultancy.

By 1966, SIGMA had grown to a staff size of over fifty, with employees hailing from a wide array of professional and academic backgrounds. The company consulted with a variety of clients. He felt compelled to leave, however, after a conflict arose between him and the company’s co-owners. Beer spent a few years at the International Publishing Corporation, but felt stifled by the large corporation climate and eventually spun off into the life of the independent consultant.

After going independent, Beer found himself working in twenty-three different countries. He worked with the presidential administrations of Uruguay, Venezuela, and Chile. Beer had a particularly close relationship with President Salvadore Allende of Chile and the nation’s Corporacion de Fomenta de la Produccion. With his 1972 book, Brain of the Firm, he established an outline plan for the cybernetic regulation of Chile’s social economy. Beer continued to work alongside the Allende government until it was overthrown in 1973 by the bloody coup of General Pinochet.

In his later career, Beer’s view on operations research became more socially-driven and he began to drift away from the operations research community. This shift brought him closer to fellow operations research philosopher, Russel L. Ackoff. Beer made significant changes to his lifestyle following the Chilean coup. He abandoned the clean cut look in favor of a long beard, giving him the appearance of “an Old Testament prophet.” Beer spent a significant portion of his time in a remote, little college in the Welsh hillside that for years had no telephone or running water. He died in Toronto in August, 2002. 

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Anthony Stafford Beer
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Wikipedia Entry for Anthony Stafford Beer

Pickering A. (2004) The Science of the unknowable: Stafford Beer's Cybernetic Informatics. Bowden M. E. & Rayward W. B., eds. in The History and Heritage of Scientific And Technological Information Systems, 29-38. Information Today: Medford, NJ. 

Rosenhead J (2006) IFOR's Operational Research Hall of Fame: Stafford Beer. International Transactions in Operations Research, 13(6):577-581


University College London


Academic Affiliations
  • University College London
  • Manchester Business School 
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • British Army
  • International Publishing Corporation
  • Republic of Chile
  • Science in General Management
  • United Steel Companies

Key Interests in OR/MS

  • Cybernetics
Application Areas

Oral Histories

Stafford Beer (1994) Cybernetics, History & Origins. July. Video. Falcondale Hotel: Wales, UK. (see embedded YouTube video below)



The Guardian (2002) Stafford Beer. September 4. Education. (link

Awards and Honors

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 1966 

American Society for Cybernetics McCulloch Plaque 1970

Selected Publications

Beer A. S. (1959) Cybernetics and Management. English Universities Press: London

Beer A. S. (1966) Decision and Control. John Wiley: London.

Beer A. S. (1968) Management Science: The Business Use of Operations Research. Aldus Books: London.

Beer A. S. (1972) Brain Of The Firm. Allen Lane, The Penguin Press: London.

Beer A. S. (1974) Designing Freedom. CBC Learning Systems: Toronto.

Beer A. S. (1975) Platform for Change. John Wiley: London.

Beer A. S. (1977) Transit. CWRW Press, Wales. Limited Edition, Private Circulation.

Beer A. S. (1979) The Heart of Enterprise. John Wiley: London.

Beer A. S. (1985) Diagnosing the System for Organizations. John Wiley: London.

Beer A. S. (1994) Beyond Dispute: The Invention of Team Syntegrity. John Wiley: Chichester.

Additional Resources

Wikiquote Page for Anthony Stafford Beer

Espejo R. (2004) Special Issue: Tribute to Stafford Beer. Kybernetes, 33(3/4). (link)