Herbert A. Simon

June 15, 1916 – February 9, 2001

Brief Biography

Herbert Alexander Simon was a Nobel prizing-winning economist and operations researcher who made significant contributions to production planning, bounded rationality, and artificial intelligence. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Simon excelled as a student, joining a variety of extracurricular clubs and  reading extensively. He enrolled at the University of Chicago in 1933, aiming to study mathematics and the social sciences. By age nineteen, he had already decided to focus on the science of making decisions. Simon majored in political science and took many economics courses, befriending Harold Guetzkow and William W. Cooper along the way.

Simon graduated in 1936 and remained at Chicago to pursue graduate study. He accepted a research assistantship with Clarence Ridley at the International City Manager’s Association where he was exposed to managerial issues in municipalities. Simon further expanded his work on subject at the University of California’s Bureau of Public Administration from 1938 to 1942. At Berkeley, he engaged in empirical and statistical studies that employed the new IBM wired plug-board machines. He returned to Chicago in 1942 to defend his dissertation on administrative behavior and accepted a position at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

During World War II, Simon wanted to join the US Army as a commissioned officer for combat service but was rejected due to his color blindness. He chose not to enlist in a noncombatant capacity and waited to be drafted as a private. Simon was never conscripted and at the war’s end felt guilty to have missed it altogether.

Simon published his first major book, Administrative Behavior, in 1947 and was shortly after promoted to full professor. At IIT he was tasked with teaching constitutional law to engineers. It was during this time when Simon became involved with the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics. At Cowles, he learned about linear programming and worked alongside such OR leaders as Tjalling Koopmans, Kenneth J. Arrow, and Leonid Hurwitz. He participated in a study on the economic effects of atomic energy and was introduced to the theory of games. This involvement with operations research in the early 1950s led to consulting opportunities at the RAND Corporation.

In 1948, Simon was invited to visit Cooper at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He was offered a job at the new Graduate School of Industrial Administration (GSIA) and moved to Pittsburgh the following year. At GSIA, he reunited with Guetzkow and worked with George Kozmetsky. Simon continued to research different areas of organization theory, OR, economics, and mathematical modeling. Much of his early work from the period was compiled in his book, Models of Man (1957). 

Leading into 1955, Simon developed the belief that a deeper understand of decision making required a theory of human problem solving and knowledge that could only be studied via computer science. That year he, Allen Newell, and J. Clifford Shaw created Logic Theorist, the first operational artificial intelligence computer program that used heuristic rules for proving theorems. Simon moved to the Carnegie's computer science faculty full-time in 1965 and spent the remainder of his career as an advocate of AI in operations research.

In 1978, Simon was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences “for his pioneering research into the decision-making process within economic organizations.” This selection surprised many but, as he said in his own words, Simon was lucky to be “a duly certified member of the Econometric Mafia.” Simon received a number of other awards and prizes for his life’s work prior to his death at eighty-four. 

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Herbert A. Simon
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Wikipedia Entry for Herbert A. Simon

Assad A. (2004) IFORS' operational research hall of fame: Herbert A. Simon. International Transactions in Operational Research, 11(4): 479-484. (link

Carnegie Mellon University Computer Science. A Tribute to Herman Simon: Biography. Accessed April 22, 2015. (link

Heyck, H (2005) Herbert A. Simon: The Bounds of Reason in Modern America.  Johns Hopkins Press.

Heyck, H (2008) Defining the Computer: Herbert Simon and the Bureaucratic Mind--Part 1. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. vol 30:2,  April-June 2008

Heyck, H (2008) Defining the Computer: Herbert Simon and the Bureaucratic Mind--Part 2. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. vol 30:2,  April-June 2008

The Famous People. Intellectuals & Academics: Herbert Simon Biography. Accessed April 22, 2015. (link

UBS Nobel Perspectives.   Herbert Simon - Are we understanding human behavior?  Accessed April 25, 2019 (link


University of Chicago, BA 1936

University of Chicago, PhD 1943 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Herbert A. Simon (1994) Interview by Doug Stewart. June. OMNI. (transcript

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Nobel Prize Foundation. Nobel Prizes and Laureates: Herbert A. Simon - Biographical. Accessed December 19, 2018. (link

Simon H. A. (1991) Models of My Life. Basic Books: New York. 


New York Times (2001) Herbert A. Simon Dies at 84, Won a Nobel Prize in Economics. February 10. (link

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2001) Obituary: Herbert A. Simon/ Father of Artificial Intelligence and Nobel Prize Winner. February 10. (link


Herbert Simon College. Carnegie Mellon University Libraries. Carnegie Mellon University: Pittsburgh, PA. (link

Awards and Honors

National Academy of Sciences 1967

American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award 1969

Alan M. Turing Award 1975

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1978

Academy of Management Scholarly Contributions Award 1983

National Medal of Science 1986

John von Neumann Theory Prize 1988

International Federation of Operational Research Societies' Operations Research Hall of Fame 2004

Selected Publications

Ridley C. & Simon H. A. (1937) Development of measurement standards. Public Management, 19(3): 84-88.

Ridley C. & Simon H. A. (1938) Measuring municipal activities. International City Manager’s Association: Chicago, IL.

Simon H. A. (1947) Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations. Macmillan: New York.

Holt C. & Simon H. A. (1954) The control of inventories and production rates – a survey. Journal of the Operations Research Society of America, 2(3): 289-301.

Simon H. A. (1955) A behavioral model of rational choice. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 69(1): 99-118.

Simon H. A. (1957) Models of Man: Social and Rational. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Simon H. A. (1965) The Sciences of the Artificial. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Simon H. A. (1978) On how to decide what to do. Bell Journal of Economics, 9(2): 494-507.

Simon H. A. (1982) Models of Bounded Rationality: Volumes I and II. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Simon H. A. (1987) Two heads are better than one: the collaboration between AI and OR. Interfaces, 17(): 8-15.