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Jay Wright Forrester – founder of our field, leader, mentor, guide, and friend – 1918-2016. Born on Bastille Day, “but to my knowledge,” he once said recently, “the French haven’t taken any notice of it yet.” The System Dynamics community has had him in its midst since the late 1950s. We’ve heard his exhortations (and occasional scoldings) over these almost-60 years, and have grown as individuals and as a field from the examples he set for us. In the early years he struck fear in our hearts as we tried to meet his demands. In the later years we realized the warmth that lay under his drive for our perfection, and we are grateful for all of it.

Jay’s quotes are endlessly instructive. He was always challenging: “The solutions to small problems yield small results. … The most important problems are but little more difficult to handle than the unimportant.” He startled us: “The most important decision of the CEO is how to limit growth.” He saw a similar phenomenon in global dynamics: “Relying on technology to solve the problems created by growth is to evade the question of how to slow growth.” He insisted on an endogenous view: “We cause our own problems.” He always sought wise generalizations from his own model-based work: “Even if we manage to find a high leverage point in a complex system, we’re very likely to push the lever in the wrong direction.” He sought to improve practice in management science: “It’s false to assume that accuracy must be achieved before precision is useful.” In his enthusiasm he occasionally overreached: “Only System Dynamics modelers can talk for an hour without contradicting themselves.” (Just recently he moderated that: “Well, maybe twenty minutes.”) He had unwavering, quiet confidence, and urged us to have it too: “Have courage…”

Many of us have memories we cherish and want to share about Jay. This page is for us all. Write what you want others to see and hear. We will all gain from our memories of Jay.


113 comments

  • Sobanke Victor

    Dear Jay,
    I recently discovered system dynamics modelling after many months of searching for a suitable/appropriate methodology to use in my Ph.D. research work. Since then I can’t stop wondering at this Great value you have contributed to the way human passive or address historical topical problems. How i wish you also personally focus more on problems in Africa particularly Nigeria. Anyway, I take solace in many of your numerous apostles in system dynamics, the field which you have developed and donated as your own quota to human advancement. I say thank you. Your work lives on, Your work carries your soul. Therefore, I know that Jay Wright Forrester lives on.

  • I met Jay Forrester during the 2005 “Business Dynamics” course at Sloan. I asked him a question about his life purpose and he got a little embarrassed, perhaps I did not choose the right words, but anyway he answered me something like “to change the world”, or the like. I was trying to understand how he had planned his career. I think that he did change the way we perceive systemic interaction, and in that way he did make a great difference. The second time I met him was in 2010, during the SD Conference at Boston, he talked very passionately about the “limits to growth” scenarios facing humanity. I remember him asking for more in depth study. I thought that perhaps the SD field needs to better communicate and persuade politicians and the general public. During this last conference I heard him speak about having figured out “how the economy works” or something like that. He was very moved and enthusiastic. His legacy is impressive.

  • Professor Jay: I have been following you, the SD Society and the annual SD conferences for a good time. You showed the world, about the physical power of mathematics immediately into individuals and also organizations. Prof. Jay: We thank you for creating such a great area of impact on thousands of skilled people around.

  • I learned a lot from Prof Jay Forrester’s books, papers and articles. He inspired me and my group on the fundamental of systems dynamics and value chain modelling and simulation. Many thanks. Rest in Peace Prof. Jay.

    Best,
    Prof. Dr. Herry Purnomo
    Scientist at Center for International Forestry Research
    Professor of Forest Management and Governance, Bogor Agricultural University
    Indonesia.

  • SHOWING H YOUNG

    Jay is a person of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. His truthfulness shown in his searching for the truth, speak the truth, and his sense of humor. I still remember that was in the first time Fireside Chat with Forrester, I asked Jay: “Why you are so healthy?” He thouhgt a moment and said: “You have to make a right decision.” then paused. The room became quiet and waiting for his answer. “You have to choose the right parents.” and then lol (laughed out loudly) with his long hands weaving. A typical Jay’s sense of homor.
    Showing Young

  • Jaziar Radianti

    I never dreamed was able to come to New York City 2003, and even had a presentation attended by Jay. I was lucky. System Dynamics is his biggest legacy and keep alive among the young generations.

  • Carsten Tank- Nielsen

    When president Kennedy died some observered that, sadly, the best people tend to die at an early age. Luckily, that is not always true, as with Jay who now has departed at an age of 98. I will remember him for his, literally lifelong, contribution to system thinking, and consequently to our system understanding, frequently pioneering this field. Through his lecturing, speeches, contributions in debates, and through his articles and books, several generations have been exposed to, and learned from, his unique system thinking and insight. I am grateful that I belong to one of these generations.Thank you Jay.

    My condolence to all his family.

  • SHOWING H. YOUNG

    That was in the first time Fireside Chat with Forrester, I asked Jay: “Why you are so healthy?” He thouhgt a moment and said “You have to make a right decision.” then paused. The room became very quiet and waiting for his answer. “You have to choose the right parents.” and then lol (laughed out loudly) with his long hands weaving, a typical Forrester’s humor.
    Showing Young

  • peter berends

    I had the honour meeting Jay Forrester at a SD conference as a PhD student and was impressed by his humbleness and kindness.I am very grateful for his wisdom, insights and work. It has profoundly influenced the way I look at life.

  • Martijn

    May our dear professor Forrester rest in peace and may his work flourish.