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John Little (academic)

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John Little
Born (1928-02-01) February 1, 1928 (age 96)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Case Western Reserve University
Known forLittle's law
SpouseElizabeth (Betty) Alden[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsGeneral Electric
ThesisUse of Storage Water in a Hydroelectric System (1955)
Doctoral advisorPhilip M. Morse

John Dutton Conant Little (born February 1, 1928[1]) is an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology best known for his result in operations research, Little's law.



Born in Boston,[1] he earned a S.B. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1948)[1] and worked at General Electric (1948–50). His PhD on Use of Storage Water in a Hydroelectric System used dynamic programming, and advised by Philip M. Morse, was the first ever awarded in operations research (1955).[2] Next, he taught at the Case Institute of Technology (now part of Case Western Reserve) from 1957 to 1962, before joining the faculty at MIT in 1962 where he since has worked. He was visiting professor at INSEAD (1988).

His earlier research in operations research involved traffic signal control, and gave him fame as he formed the Little's law in 1961. It states: "The average number of customers in a stable system (over some interval) is equal to their average arrival rate, multiplied by their average time in the system." A corollary has been added: "The average time in the system is equal to the average time in queue plus the average time it takes to receive service." Little is considered to be a founder of marketing science,[3] having conducted fundamental research in models of individual choice behavior, adaptive control of promotional spending, and marketing mix models for consumer packaged goods. He has also started companies such as Management Decisions Systems and Kana Software. The John D. C. Little Award is awarded annually by INFORMS. He is the father of John N. Little.[1]

Little was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (1989) for outstanding contributions to operational systems engineering including research, education, and applications in industry and leadership.


  • The Use of Storage Water in a Hydroelectric System, Journal of the Operations Research Society of America, Vol. 3, No. 2 (May, 1955), pp. 187–197
  • Little, J. D. C. (1961). "A Proof for the Queuing Formula: L = λW". Operations Research. 9 (3): 383–387. doi:10.1287/opre.9.3.383. JSTOR 167570.
  • Models and Managers: The Concept of a Decision Calculus, in Management Science: A Journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, 16(8):466-4855, 1970
  • Decision Support Systems for Marketing Managers (1984)
  • The Marketing Information Revolution (Harvard Business School Press, 1994). With Robert C. Blattberg and Rashi Glazer




  1. ^ a b c d e Hauser, John R.; Urban, Glen L. (2011). "John D. C. Little". Profiles in Operations Research. International Series in Operations Research & Management Science. Vol. 147. pp. 659–676. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-6281-2_36. hdl:1721.1/58104. ISBN 978-1-4419-6280-5.
  2. ^ John Little at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ John Little, The greatest of MIT's great faculty from spectrum.mit.edu (summer 2006)
  4. ^ "John D.C. Little honored with Buck Weaver Award for outstanding contributions to marketing". Archived from the original on 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2008-10-08.