Herbert A. Simon is one of the most influential men of the 20th century. Know all about his profile, childhood, life and timeline in the biography below.

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Famous as
Economist, Political scientist, sociologist, psychologist, and professor
Born on
15 June 1916
Died At Age
Sun Sign
Gemini    Gemini Men
Born in
Died on
09 February 2001
place of death
Arthur Simon
Edna Marguerite Merkel
Dorothea Pye
University of Chicago (1943)
University of Chicago
discoveries / inventions
Hawkins–Simon Theorem
1975 - Turing Award
1978 - Nobel Prize in Economics
Herbert Simon
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Herbert Simon is recognized as one of the founding fathers of important scientific domains and the most renowned figure of the twentieth century. Apart from being the key researcher in the field of science, he is also recognized as an economist, a professor, a sociologist and a psychologist. His works contributed to the field of management literature, economics, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. He worked as a professor for 52 years at Carnegie Mellon — a university which gave him recognition. He was a true scientist and his skills proved to be an asset for the computer science department at the Carnegie Mellon University. He developed an affinity for books, music and sports at a young age from his family. Till today, Herbert Simon remains as one the most famous and powerful figures of the last century, acclaimed highly for his innovative ideas, intelligence and personality. This academic scholar and Nobel Prize winner spent his life making groundbreaking discoveries like importance of human decision-making concepts in dynamic environments, artificial intelligence, information processing, attention economics and many more.

Herbert Alexander Simon Childhood & Early Life
Herbert Alexander Simon was born to Jewish parents — Arthur Carl Simon, an electrical engineer and Edna Marguerite Merkel, a highly skilled pianist — in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 15, 1916. His father patented more than a dozen inventions while his mother was a third generation American, whose filiation extended up to Prague and Cologne. As a child, Simon was educated in the public school system and found his schoolwork highly intriguing yet remarkably easy. From a very young age, Simon exhibited a deep affinity towards science, which was instilled in him by his maternal uncle Harold Merkel, an alumnus of Wisconsin University, who studied economics under John R. Commons. The books written by Merkel on economics and psychology fascinated Simon deeply and it was through these books that he was first introduced to the realms of social sciences. He was so much influenced by Richard Ely’s economic textbooks, Norman Angell’s ‘The Great Illusion’, and Henry George’s ‘Progress and Poverty’ that he took up social studies and mathematics during his graduation years in the University of Chicago and received his B.A in political science in 1936. Eventually, he went on to receive his the year 1943. During his term at the university, he had the good fortune of being mentored by Henry Schultz who was a renowned econometrician and mathematical economist of his time.
Simon signed up for a course on “Measuring Municipal Governments” following which he was offered the chance to work as a research assistant for Clarence Ridley. This introduced him to organizational decision-making, which later became the subject of his doctoral dissertation. Simon served as the director of a research group at the University of California, Berkeley from 1939-1942, after which he joined the faculty of Illinois Institute of Technology where he taught political science until 1949. He was also made the chairman of the department during this time. Simon was appointed as the professor of administrations and chairman of the Carnegie Mellon University (then known as the Department of Industrial Management at Carnegie Tech) in 1949 and he stayed there until his death in 2001, teaching computer science, psychology, and a host of other subjects in various departments.
During this time, Simon took up the studies of mathematical economics and together with his friend David Hawkins, came up with the groundbreaking Hawkins-Simon theorem. He also formulated other noteworthy theorems on near-decomposability and aggregation. In 1954, he started applying these theorems to organizations and realized that the best way to study problem-solving technique is to simulate it with computer programs. During his stay in Pittsburgh, he advised people on the issues of the use of public funds to construct stadiums and method of raising tax revenue. He was highly influenced by Henry George’s economics thought and emphasized the importance of land tax. Simon was among the first few to join the Society for General Systems Research.
Contribution in Economics
Simon’s biggest contribution to the field of economics was the concept of behavioral decision-making. His pioneering research in the area was inspired by his doctoral dissertation on the decision-making processes, which was later released as a book named “Administrative Behavior”. The book dealt with the behavioral and cognitive processes of making decisions. According to him, a decision should be correct and efficient and must be practical enough to be implemented and any decision that involves alternative should be towards an organizational goal. The task of decision-making is to select the alternative results in the more preferred set of all the possible consequences.The key to this work is the idea that human decision making results in satisficing than optimizing. According to Simon’s approach, the entrepreneur is substituted by a configuration of decision makers whose intellect is limited and cooperates to get the right solution for the troubles they would confront. In reality, people in large organizations cannot put all these into action for obtaining rational decisions. Due to the limitation of uncertainty of the future and the ability to process information, people ‘satisifice’ to result in satisfactory outcomes. People in the organization usually come up with decisions for certain goals, which are adjusted when the results do not match. In his book, he rejected the idea of ‘economic man’ who optimizes rather than introducing the concept of a businessman who satisfices.
Contributions To Artificial Intelligence
Simon was one of the first ones to explore the realms of artificial intelligence, and together with Allen Newell came up with the Logic Theory Machine (1956) and the General Problem Solver (GPS) (1957) programs. GPS is believed to be the first method of distinguishing problem solving scheme from information about particular issues. Both the above programs were developed using the Information Processing Language by Newell, Simon and Cliff Shaw. In 1960s, Simon wrote a paper reacting to a claim by the psychologist Ulric Neisser who stated that machines may duplicate processes like reasoning, planning, deciding but cannot replicate processes like desiring, having emotions etc. His paper was then published in the year 1967, which was ignored by the AI research community for years but later became extremely influential. Simon also teamed up with James G. March on several works in organization theory. Along with Newell, Simon came up with a possibility for the simulation of human problem solving behavior using the production rules. He paired up with Anders Ericsson Simon to develop verbal protocol analysis. Apart from this, Simon wanted to know how humans learn and with Edward Feigenbaum he formulated the Elementary Perceiver and Memorizer theory — one of the first theories of learning as a computer program. This EPAM served as a means to explain a large number of phenomena in the realms of verbal learning.
Main Works
Some of the major works of Simon include: ‘Administrative Behaviour’, (1947), ‘Econometrica’ (1949), ‘Public Administration’ (with V.A. Thompson and D.W. Smithburg) (1950), ‘Models of Man’ (1957), ‘Organizations’ (with J.G. March), ‘Planning Production, Inventories and Work Forces’ (with C.C. Holt, F. Modigliani and J. Muth), ‘The Shape of Automation for Men and Management’ (1965), ‘The Sciences of the Artificial’ (1969), ‘Human Problem Solving’ (with A. Newell) (1977), ‘Models of Thought’ (1979), ‘Rational Decision Making in Business Organizations’, ‘American Economic Review’ (1979), ‘Models of Bounded Rationality’ (1982), ‘Economics Bounded Rationality and Cognitive Revolution’ (1992).
Personal Life
Simon married Dorothea Pye on 25 December 1937 (Christmas day). Gradually Mrs. Simon gave birth to two daughters — Katherine Simon Frank of Minneapolis, Minnand Barbara M. Simon of Wilder and a son, Peter Simon of Bryan, Texas.
In the mid-January of 2001, Simon underwent surgery at UPMC Presbyterian for cancerous tumor. After the successful surgery, he suffered from fatal difficulties, which then resulted on his death on February 9, 2001.
Awards & Accolades
  • In 1969, Simon received Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association for his excellence in cognitive psychology.
  • He got the honored A.M. Turing Award for his work in computer science in 1975.
  • He earned the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for the year 1978.
  • Received National Medal of Science was given to him in 1986.
  • In the year 1993, he received the American Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology.
  • He is known to be one of the only 14 scientists to be received into the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1994.
  • The International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (the Award for Research Excellence) and the American Society of Public Administration (the Dwight Waldo Award) awarded two honors to Simon in 1995. He also was in the Automation Hall of Fame for his work in the artificial intelligence field.
  • Simon received major national awards for Computing Machinery, the American Political Science Association, the Academy of Management, the Operations Research Society and the Institute of Management Science.



Simons was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


He completed his B.A from the University of Chicago


Met Dorothea Isabel Pye and married her.


ReceivedPh.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

1939 — 1942:

Simon was the director of a research group at the University of California, Berkeley.


He became the Professor of Computer Science and Psychology, and a member of the departments of philosophy and of social and decision sciences in Richard King Mellon University.

1950 — 1955:

Simon studied mathematical economics, and with David Hawkins, discovered and proved the Hawkins-Simon theorem.


He assumed that computer chess would surpass human chess abilities within 10 years when, in reality, that transition took about 40 years.


Simon received Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association for his excellence in cognitive psychology.


He was given A.M. Turing Award for his work in computer science.


He earned the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.


National Medal of Science was given to him.


He received the American Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology.


He is known to be one of the only 14 scientists to be received into the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


He received theAmerican Psychological Association Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology.


the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence and the American Society of Public Administration awarded two honors to him


Simon underwent surgery at UPMC Presbyterian for operating on the cancerous tumor from his abdomen, but succumbed to the complications triggered by the surgery.

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Books About Herbert Simon

    PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION by Herbert A. Simon, Donald W. Smithburg, and Victor A. Thompson (1962 Hardcover 582 pages plus an 18 page Index. Alfred A. Knopf, NY publishers)

    by Donald W. Smithburg, And Victor A. Thompson Herbert A. Simon

    Administrative Behavior, 4th Edition [ ADMINISTRATIVE BEHAVIOR, 4TH EDITION BY Simon, Herbert Alexander ( Author ) Mar-01-1997[ ADMINISTRATIVE BEHAVIOR, 4TH EDITION [ ADMINISTRATIVE BEHAVIOR, 4TH EDITION BY SIMON, HERBERT ALEXANDER ( AUTHOR ) MAR-01-1997 ] by Simon, Herbert Alexander (Author ) on Mar-01-1997 Hardcover

    by Herbert Alexander Simon

    Administrative Behavior. A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organization de Herbert Alexander Simon (Les Fiches de lecture d'Universalis) (French Edition)

    by Encyclopædia Universalis

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