Anthony Stafford Beer

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Anthony Stafford Beer (September 25, 1926 - August 23, 2002) was a British theorist, consultant and professor at the Manchester Business School. He is best known for his work in the fields of operational research and management cybernetics.



Beer was born in London. He started a degree in philosophy at University College London, but left in 1944 to join the army. He saw service in India and stayed there until 1947. In 1949, he was demobilized, having reached the rank of captain.

He joined United Steel and persuaded the management to found an operational research group, the Department of Operations Research and Cybernetics, which he headed. In 1961 he left United Steel to start an operational research consultancy in partnership with Roger Eddison called SIGMA (Science in General Management). Beer left SIGMA in 1966 to work for a SIGMA client, the International Publishing Corporation (IPC). He was appointed development director at IPC and pushed for the adoption of new computer technologies. Beer left IPC in 1970 to work as an independent consultant, focusing on his growing interest in social systems.

In 1970, Beer was approached by Salvador Allende's elected socialist government of Chile to develop a national real-time computerised system Cybersyn to run the entire Chilean economy. This project was never completed. When Allende was removed from power by General Augusto Pinochet's 1973 coup, the Cybersyn project was abandoned. Beer continued to work in the Americas, consulting for the governments of Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In the mid 1970s, Beer renounced material possessions and moved to mid-Wales where he lived in an almost austere style, developing strong interests in poetry and art. In the 1980s he established a second home on the west side of downtown Toronto and lived part of the year in both residences. Beer kept active with work in his field.

Beer was a visiting professor at almost 30 universities and received honorary doctorates from the University of Leeds, the University of St. Gallen, the University of Sunderland and the University of Valladolid. He was president of the World Organization of Systems and Cybernetics. And he received awards from the Royal Swedish Academy for Engineering Sciences in 1958, from the United Kingdom Systems Society, the Cybernetics Society, the American Society for Cybernetics, and the Operations Research Society of America.

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