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W Edwards Deming: father of quality management, patient and composer
  1. M Best1,
  2. D Neuhauser2
  1. 1Healthcare Consultant, Eastview, KY, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Case School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Best
 Healthcare Consultant, Eastview, KY 42732, USA;

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“The right quality and uniformity are foundations of commerce, prosperity and peace.” W E Deming (1900–1993)

Variation causes waste. How could any one take these apparently simple ideas and turn them into the path to peace and prosperity? W Edwards Deming did. It took a long life and he changed the world.


William Edwards Deming, the first child of William Albert Deming and Pluma Irene Edwards, was born on 14 October 1900 in Sioux City, Iowa. His father worked mainly in freelance legal work and his mother gave music lessons on their grand Kimball piano. As a child, Deming grew up in meagre conditions. He and his family lived for years in a tarpaper shack. As a boy he worked at a hotel for $1.25 per week and he lit the town’s five gasoline street lamps every evening for $10.00 per month.1 These early years probably influenced formation of his frugal behavior, his attitude toward productivity and quality improvement, and his campaign against waste and processes that do not add value.


In 1917 Deming started attending the University of Wyoming while working at several odd jobs to support himself. He played the drums and timpani in the university band, but switched to the piccolo in his second year as it was easier to transport to off campus events. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1921, and in 1922 he married and took a job teaching physics at the Colorado School of Mines. He also attended classes at the University of Colorado and earned a master’s degree in mathematics and physics in 1925. Deming was encouraged to attend Yale to get a doctorate, and in 1928 he was awarded a doctorate in mathematical physics. While studying for his PhD, Deming taught at Yale as an instructor which …

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  • * Deming WE. Out of the crisis. © MIT Press, 1986.