Great Industrial Engineer Passes Away

Professor James Barany passed away earlier this week.  A lot of people probably won’t know Prof. Barany, but if you passed through the Industrial Engineering School at Purdue University you did.

Professor Barany has been at Purdue since 1956 when he entered the graduate program.  Once he graduated he stayed on as part of the faculty and has been there ever since.  He influenced me as an undergraduate student as well as many others, including some of my mentors. He wasn’t just recognized by Purdue.  Prof. Barany was internationally know.

As a researcher, Dr. Barany gained international recognition for his studies of hemiplegic gait using a force platform of his original design, fabrication, and validation.

Everyone knew him at Purdue and he told great stories.  He never was shy about how he felt and was never politically correct.  he just told you straight.  I can remember as a senior thinking I was going to take a couple of easy engineering electives to make my last semester easy.  I wanted to take Computers 100 which was an intro to computers.  This is a mouse.  This is the internet.  Click here.  Easy stuff.  Prof. Barany looked me straight in the eye and said, “Think again, son.  You are too smart and if you want to be successful you need to challenge yourself.  No skating.”

That was that.  I ended up taking an advanced human factors course instead.  I will never forget the conversation.

Professor Barany was a great man that influenced all Industrial Engineers at Purdue since the 1950s.

It was a sad day at Purdue.  Thanks for everything Professor Barany.

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Posted on November 11, 2011, in Leadership, Other and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Matt-thanks for sharing this tribute. It’s amazing how a challenge from a professor can influence you for years. I can recall similar exhortations from my Purdue professors as well. A sad day indeed.

    Chris

  2. Professor Barany was a very special part of my Purdue IE experience. He was a very good teacher and quite a character. I have told friends that he reminded me of a Chicago “hood” with his squinty eyes, hair combed in a DA, and walking across campus in a black trench coat with the collar turned up. In statistics class we would hear him refer to “d’uh mean of d’uh distribution”. Because of him I will always remember the need for a valid sample size when reporting statistics. On a day in statistics class when the Exponent had reported that a graduate student in Math had jumped out of the second floor of the Recitation Building to test his theory of durability, Prof Barany in class made the comment in his own inimitable style, “You know, that guy that jumped out of the Recitation Building mustn’t have known much about statistics. If he had he would have realized you can’t prove anything with a sample size of one.” As a practicing IE I enjoyed meeting him from time to time at IIE events and reading of his accomplishments in Purdue and IE publications. Purdue IE and the IE profession have lost a true gem.

    Bruce Webster BSIE’64

    • Thanks for sharing that story about Prof. Barany. I had forgotten about the black trench coat. I saw him one night in the parking garage and he kind of freaked out because I didn’t recognize him at first.

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