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William E. Deming

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Biography

Deming was born on October 14, 1990 in Sioux City, Iowa. He was named after both parents: William Albert Deming, his father, and Pluma Irene Edwards, his mother. Deming inherited his father's penchant for learning and his mother's for music. His father was trained in the legal profession and did free-lance legal work such as writing contracts. His mother had studied music and gave lessons using their grand Kimball piano. Deming had two younger siblings, brother Robert Edwards born on May 11, 1902 and a sister, Elizabeth Marie, born on January 21, 1909 (from deming.org).

When Deming was about four, the family moved to a farm near Polk City, Iowa in the south-central part of the state. This was the "Edwards farm" owned by Deming's grandfather (mother's side) who, for some reason, had moved to Missouri. After living there for about two years, the Deming family again moved, this time to Cody, Wyoming; where they lived in a small house on the grounds of the Irma Hotel.

After about two years in Cody, Deming's father took advantage of a homestead program which gave out free land in 40 and 80 acre plots as part of a major irrigation reclamation project. This caused the family to move once more to Powell, Wyoming, about 22 miles north of Cody. Deming's father secured a 40 acre plot where he was able to claim a moderate amount of success "selling insurance, making loans to farmers, drawing up wills, and selling land" (Gabor, 1990, p. 39). However, for their first four years in Powell, the Deming's lived in a tarpaper shack about the size of a freight car and, in fact; this is where sister Elizabeth was born.

As a youngster Deming took on odd jobs and either saved the money he made or helped with family expenses. He recounts helping out at Mrs. Judson's Hotel in Powell for $1.25 per week and being responsible for lighting the five gasoline street lamps in Powell every evening for $10.00 per month.

Under the most frugal conditions in which Deming was raised influenced his belief about not wasting anything. Even when, in later life, he was earning large sums of money for his services, Deming and his wife continued to live in their modest house in Washington, D.C.

Through his high school days, Deming continued to study and work hard yet also enjoying himself with outdoor activities such as camping and fishing.

In 1917, Deming attended to the University of Wyoming. There he supported himself doing janitorial work and various other odd jobs.

In 1921, Deming earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Deming stayed on and taught engineering and continued his study of mathematics.

In June of 1922, he married Agnes Belle, a young school teacher. They had no children themselves, but they adopted a daughter, Dorothy, when she was 14 months old. Deming marriage to Agnes was to be short-lived as she died in November 1930. Two years later, April, 1932, Deming married Lola Shupe, an assistant to Deming at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory where he then worked. Besides Dorothy, Lola and Deming had two daughters of their own: Diana, born December 1934 and Linda, born June 1942.

Around the same time (1922) Deming had taken a job teaching physics at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. This job was offered to him by a professor he had studied physics under at the University of Wyoming. He taught there two years and also took courses in mathematics and summer school from the University of Colorado in Boulder, earning his master's degree in 1925 in mathematics and physics.

In 1924, he moved to Boulder to take a job with the University of Colorado Graduate School. Afterwards, he decided to go to Yale (New Haven, Connecticut) to get his doctorate. There, he secured an instructorship that paid $1,000 per year.

During 1925 and 1926 he spent four months each summer working on transmitters at the famous Western Electric Hawthorne Plant in Chicago. It was there he noticed the conditions under which most of the workers had to work. He also recalled a discussion he had with a Dr. Hal Fruth who told him that after getting his degree from Yale, Western Electric might offer him a job at $5,000 per year. This was more that Deming "had ever expected to earn." However, Dr. Fruth went on to explain, that it was relatively easy to find a man worth $5,000 per year, what they were really looking for was a man who would develop into someone worth $50,000 per year, and that was hard to find. Apparently Fruth thought Deming was that sort of person.

It was during his time at Western Electric that Deming also began to learn about the importance of uniformity in telephone equipment and the name of a person who would soon become a part of his life: Walter A. Shewhart of Bell Laboratories.

In the summer of 1927, Deming had finished his work at Yale for the doctorate, but he was not formally awarded the degree until 1928. As previously mentioned before; On August 1, 1927 Deming took a job with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where he focused on studying nitrogen and its effect on crops. He worked with USDA until 1939 and then worked as a statistical advisor for the U.S. Census Bureau. There he played an important role in how the 1940 census was taken and he gained a new field of interest, going from physics to sampling, especially as applied to census work (from Voehl, 1995).

Around 1935, Deming became responsible for courses in mathematics and statistics at the USDA's graduate school.

In April 1942, Deming also became very involved with the U.S. war effort after getting a letter from a member of the Stanford University statistics faculty in which they were wondering if something could be done to help the war effort by offering training in statistics. Demings quickly responded with setting up courses to train "engineers, inspectors, and industrial people with or without mathematical and statistical training" (Gabor, 1990, p. 55). This resulted in a program of intensive eight week courses that began in early 1943 and, within two years, had trained almost 2,000 men and women.

In 1946, Deming left his job at the Census Bureau to go into private consulting practice. He also took up a position as a professor of statistics at the Graduate School of Business Administration, New York University.

While maintaining

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