Myron Tribus

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Myron Tribus

Myron T. Tribus (October 30, 1921 – August 31, 2016) was an American organizational theorist, who was the director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Study at MIT from 1974 to 1986. He was known as leading supporter and interpreter of W. Edwards Deming, for popularizing the Bayesian methods, and for coining the term "thermoeconomics".[1]


Born in San Francisco, Tribus graduated in 1942 from UCLA, and received his Ph.D in 1949. Tribus was a captain in the army during World War II, and worked as a design-development officer at Wright Field.

He joined General Electric and became a gas turbine design engineer, but was unhappy in industry, and went back to academia, joining the faculty of UCLA where he taught thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. He was a visiting professor and director of research at the University of Michigan between 1951 and 1953. In 1961, he was named dean of Dartmouth College's Thayer School of Engineering.,[2] where he led the faculty in developing a new curriculum based on engineering design and entrepreneurship. He saw hands-on engineering design as being essential at all levels of the curriculum, saying, "Knowledge without know-how is sterile." [3]

In 1969, Tribus accepted a post in the Nixon administration as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Science and Technology.[4] On November 23, 1970, he left the Department of Commerce after 18 months to become Senior V.P. for Research & Engineering in Xerox Corp.[5] From 1974 to 1986 Tribus directed the Center for Advanced Engineering Study at MIT.

Tribus is a co-founder of Exergy Inc., a company specializing in the design of advanced, high-efficiency power production systems. In recent years he has focused on the theory of structural cognitive modifiability of Reuven Feuerstein, an Israeli psychologist.

Tribus received several awards:

  • Elected member of the National Academy of Engineering on 1973, under Special Fields & Interdisciplinary Engineering, for his contributions to applied sciences that support engineering, to engineering education, and for professional service in education, government, and industry.
  • The Thurman Bane award
  • The Wright Brothers Medal,[6][7]
  • The Alfred Noble Prize as a joint award from seven societies for his work developing a thermal ice protection system for aircraft.[8]
  • The Deming Lecturer Award in 1998 for "The Contributions of W. Edwards Deming to the Improvement of Education"


Tribus research interests ranged from academic subjects such as heat transfer, fluid mechanics, probability theory, statistical inference, and thermodynamics, to applied topics such as sea water demineralization, aircraft heating, aircraft ice prevention, and the design of engineering curricula. He also had a strong influence concerning the domains of industrial quality, ergonomics, and education.

Tribus headed the center when it published W. Edwards Deming's book, Out of the Crisis, and became a leading supporter and interpreter of W. Edwards Deming. He is also known in the 1970s for an insightful book called Rational descriptions, decisions and designs which popularized Bayesian methods with examples. In the 1960s, Tribus coined the term "thermoeconomics".

Perversity Principle[edit]

Myron Tribus "Perversity Principle":

"If you try to improve the performance of a system of people, machines, and procedures by setting numerical goals for the improvement of individual parts of the system, the system will defeat your efforts and you will pay a price where you least expect it.".[9]

This idea, close to a quotation by Paul Valéry about the spontaneous creation of counter-measures defeating measures,[10] was reformulated by Stephen Covey as "Whoever tries to manage his business only looking at figures will soon not have anymore the figures nor the business"[11]


Tribus published two books; Thermostatics and Thermodynamics, the first textbook basing the laws of thermodynamics on information theory rather than on the classical arguments, and Rational Descriptions, Decisions, and Designs, introducing Bayesian Decision methods into the engineering design process.

He also published a short publication, Goals and Gaols in which he illustrated with many historic examples how premature specialization may push students to a dead end given the fast obsolescence of techniques.


He published over 100 papers on topics

  • Tribus, Myron (1961). Thermodynamics and Thermostatics: An Introduction to Energy, Information and States of Matter, with Engineering Applications. D. Van Nostrand Company Inc.
  • Tribus, Myron (1969). Rational Descriptions, Decisions and Designs. Pergamon Press Inc. 1969. Reprint 478pp, 1999 at EXPIRA Press, Stockholm. Still available.
  • Levine, Raphael D., and Myron Tribus, eds. The maximum entropy formalism. Cambridge: Mit Press, 1979.
  • Tribus, Myron (1989). Deployment flow charting. Quality & Productivity, Inc. ASIN
  • Tribus, Myron (1992). Quality first: Selected papers on quality and productivity improvement. National Society of Professional Engineers; 4th ed edition.
  • Tribus, Myron (1992). The Germ theory of management. SPC Press'.


  1. ^ "Myron Tribus Obituary". Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  2. ^ Dartmouth Names Dean at Thayer, NY Times, January 11, 1961, p15
  3. ^ History Thayer School Deans,
  4. ^ Science 4 Dec 70
  5. ^ Commerce Aide Resigns, NY Times, November 24, 1970, p48
  6. ^ Wins Bane Aviation Award, NY Times, January 18, 1946, p4
  7. ^ Air Engineers get Praise for War Aid: A Double Celebration in the Capital of Japan, NY Times, January 29, 1946, p9
  8. ^ Myron Tribus, 1961, Thermodynamics and Thermostatics: An Introduction to Energy, Information and States of Matter, with Engineering Applications, Back dust cover, D. Van Nostrand Company Inc., 24 West 40 Street, New York 18, New York, U.S.A.
  9. ^ Myron Tribus, Quality First, Washington, D.C.: National Society of Professional Engineers (#1459), 1992
  10. ^ "je constate que le contrôle, en toute matière, aboutit à vicier l’action, à la pervertir... Je vous l’ai déjà dit : dès qu’une action est soumise à un contrôle, le but profond de celui qui agit n’est plus l’action même, mais il conçoit d’abord la prévision du contrôle, la mise en échec des moyens de contrôle. Le contrôle des études n’est qu’un cas particulier et une démonstration éclatante de cette observation très générale", Le bilan de l'intelligence (1935), in Variété, Œuvres, t. 1, Gallimard, Pléiade, p. 1076.
  11. ^ Stephen Covey, The 7 habits of highly-effective people.

External links[edit]