Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Walter Shewhart - Biography and Contribution

Date of Birth 18 March 1891

Shewhart's monumental work, Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product, published in 1931, is regarded as a complete and thorough exposition of the basic principles of quality control.

He graduated from the University of Illinois with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and he received a doctorate in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1917. He taught for some time at the universities of Illinois and California, and  headed the physics department at the Wisconsin Normal School in LaCrosse.

Shewhart joined industry and  worked as an engineer at Western Electric from 1918 to 1924. At Bell Telephone Laboratories, he served in several capacities as a member of the technical staff from 1925 until his retirement in 1956.  He learned statistics by himself (self learning) and developed statistical process control concepts and related charts as a member of inspection staff at Hawthorne Plant of Western Electric.

He also lectured on quality control and applied statistics at the University of London, Stevens Institute of Technology, the graduate school of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in India. He was a member of the visiting committee at Harvard’s Department of Social Relations, an honorary professor at Rutgers, and a member of the advisory committee of the Princeton mathematics department. Shewhart served the War Department, the United Nations, and the government of India, as consultant and he was active with the National Research Council and the International Statistical Institute. He was an honorary member of England’s Royal Statistical Society and the Calcutta Statistical Association. He was a fellow and officer of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Statistical Association, and a fellow of the Econometric Society, the International Statistical Institute, and the New York Academy of Science.

He taught at the universities of Illinois and California, and he briefly headed the physics department at the Wisconsin Normal School in LaCrosse. He served for more than 20 years as the first editor of the Mathematical Statistics Series published by John Wiley and Sons.

Shewhart wrote Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control in 1939. He published numerous articles in professional journals.  One of the historical documents of Shewhart kept at Bell Laboratories is  the historic memorandum of May 16, 1924, in which he proposed the control chart to his superiors.

He died on 11 March 1967.

Both Deming and Juran were in touch with him and both promoted his ideas vigorously and added their contribution.




Sankhya - The Indian Journal of Statistics, October 1948
Shewart visited and lectured in India three times during 1947 to 1948 and was awarded D.Sc. by Indian Statistical Institute in 1962.


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