Herbert Simon
1916 - 2001

Political scientist who brought corporate decision making to the forefront of management thinking. 


Ranked #42 in 2001. 


Recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1978. 


Recipient of the Turing Award in Computer Science in Economic Sciences in 1975. 


Simon’s main body of work centres around decision-making within organizations. He argues that asserts decision making is at the heart of administration and that the vocabulary of administrative theory must be built around the notion of choice. His renowned theories include “bounded rationality” – the concept that rationality is limited when individuals make decisions therefore decisions are usually satisfactory rather than optimal – and “satisficing” – a cognitive heuristic that involves considering all available alternatives until a level of acceptability is reached.

Simon’s 1947 book, Administrative Behavior, laid the foundation for the economic movement known as the Carnegie School, and he sits among the pioneers of artificial intelligence, organization theory, information processing, complex systems, problem-solving and decision-making. 


Born in 1916 in Wisconsin to parents of European heritage, Simon gained his BA and PhD in political science from the University of Chicago and became a research assistant for Clarence Ridley at the University of California, Berkeley. The two co-authored Measuring Municipal Activities in 1938. He went on to become professor of political science at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and then moved to the faculty at Carnegie-Mellon University, where he remained until 2001.


Measuring Municipal Activities: a Survey of Suggested Criteria for Appraising Administration (with Clarence Ridley, 1938); Administrative Behavior: a Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organization (MacMillan, 1947); Models of Man (Jon Wiley, 1959); The Sciences of the Artificial (MIT Press,1969); Human Problem Solving (with Allen Newell, 1972); Models of Bounded Rationality (MIT Press, 1982); Models of my Life (Basic Books, 1991); Organizations (with James March, Wiley-Blackwell, 1993).


Media picks


“Hugely influential thinker across multiple disciplines including social science, economics, psychology, computer science, political science, and management.”

Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50

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