Skip to main content

Jay Wright Forrester papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0439

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the professional activities of Jay Wright Forrester, director of the Digital Computer Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Materials in this collection span from approximately 1940 to 2000, and include Forresters research, writings, speeches, correspondence, corporate consulting materials, and course notes for classes he taught at MIT. Forrester's research is documented in records about his patents and computation notebooks. These materials include information about magnetic core memory lawsuits involving IBM. Writings by Forrester include drafts of his book The City: Growth, Stagnation, and Revival, and background material for his other publications. Correspondence in the collection documents his relationships with colleagues and government officials. Also included are interviews with Forrester, compriising a transcript of a 1970 oral history and an audiorecording of a 1975 interview conduted by the staff of the London Science Museum. The 1975 intervieww includes commentary on the development of the electronic digital computer, Vannevar Bush, and Project Whirlwind.


  • 1940-circa 2000


Access note

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Digital Access Note

Some parts of this collection are available online. Links to specific online digital items are found within their entry in this finding aid.

Intellectual Property Rights

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.


Jay Wright Forrester, 1918-2016, BS in electrical engineering, 1939, University of Nebraska; SM in electrical engineering, 1949, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was director of the MIT Digital Computer Laboratory, 1946-1951, and was responsible for the design and construction of Whirlwind I, one of the first high-speed digital computers. He invented magnetic core memory, which for many years was the standard memory device for digital computers. As head of the Digital Computer Division of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, 1952-1956, he guided the planning and technical design of the Air Force SAGE system for continental air defense. In 1956 he became professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where his work on the development of computer modeling and analysis of social systems led to the field now know as systems dynamics. He became Germeshausen Professor in 1972 and Germeshausen Professor emeritus and senior lecturer in 1989. His many books include Industrial Dynamics (1961), Systems Dynamics in Management Education (1985), and The City: Growth, Stagnation, and Revival (1968).


136.2 Cubic Feet (134 record cartons, 5 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 1 flat storage box, 1 tube, 3 folios, 1 cassette box)

Language of Materials



Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Source of Acquisition

Materials were given to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) by Jay Forrester.

Processing Information note

Some collection descriptions are based on legacy data and may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies. Description may change pending verification. Please contact the MIT Department of Distinctive Collections if you notice any errors or discrepancies.

Preliminary Inventory to the Papers of Jay Wright Forrester
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US