James Grier Miller
James Grier Miller was an American biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...

, a pioneer of systems science
Systems science
Systems science is an interdisciplinary field of science that studies the nature of complex systems in nature, society, and science. It aims to develop interdisciplinary foundations, which are applicable in a variety of areas, such as engineering, biology, medicine and social sciences.Systems...

, who originated the modern use of the term "behavioral science", founded and directed the multi-disciplinary Mental Health Research Institute
Mental Health Research Institute (Michigan)
The Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan is an interdisciplinary research institute, which played a key role in the development of general systems theory...

 at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

, and originated the living systems theory.


Miller received his A.B. summa cum laude in 1937, an A.M. in psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 in 1938, an M.D. cum laude in 1942, and Ph.D. in psychology in 1943 all from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, where he was also a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows. Following military service in World War II, he served as Chief of the newly formed Clinical Psychology section of the Veteran's Administration central office in Washington.

He has served on the faculty at Harvard. In 1948, he accepted the position of Chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

, which he held until 1955. From 1955 to 1967 he directed the multi-disciplinary Mental Health Research Institute At Michigan. In 1967 to pursue an administrative career, first as provost of the newly founded Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University
Cleveland State University is a public university located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. It was established in 1964 when the state of Ohio assumed control of Fenn College, and it absorbed the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1969...

, and then in 1973 as president of the University of Louisville
University of Louisville
The University of Louisville is a public university in Louisville, Kentucky. When founded in 1798, it was the first city-owned public university in the United States and one of the first universities chartered west of the Allegheny Mountains. The university is mandated by the Kentucky General...

, from which position he retired in 1980.

He is a fellow or member of numerous scientific and professional societies. He served as president of the Society for General Systems Research
Society for General Systems Research
The Society for General Systems Research is predecessor of the current International Society for the Systems Sciences , known to be one the first interdisciplinary and international co-operations in the field of systems theory and systems science...

 (SGSR) succeeding Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist, who was frequently a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s....

 in 1973. He was a founder and the first head of EDUCOM (the Interuniversity Communications Council). He also has been a fellow of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna. For more than 30 years Miller was editor of the Journal "Behavioral Science".

See also

  • Living systems theory
  • Radiant energy
    Radiant energy
    Radiant energy is the energy of electromagnetic waves. The quantity of radiant energy may be calculated by integrating radiant flux with respect to time and, like all forms of energy, its SI unit is the joule. The term is used particularly when radiation is emitted by a source into the...

  • Systems theory
    Systems theory
    Systems theory is the transdisciplinary study of systems in general, with the goal of elucidating principles that can be applied to all types of systems at all nesting levels in all fields of research...

  • Wikiversity
    Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project, which supports learning communities, their learning materials, and resulting activities. It differs from more structured projects such as Wikipedia in that it instead offers a series of tutorials, or courses, for the fostering of learning, rather than...


Miller has written or co-authored nine books and published more than 100 scientific and scholarly articles.
  • 1942. Unconsciousness. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • 1948. OSS Assessment Staff. Assessment of men. New York: Rinehart & Company.
  • 1950. Experiments in social process. (Ed.) New York: Mc Graw-Hill.
  • 1959. The pharmacology and clinical usefulness of carisoprodol. (Ed.) Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
  • 1960. Drugs and behavior. (Ed.) with L. Uhr. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • 1978. Living systems. New York: Mc Graw-Hill.
  • 1989. Measurement and interpretations in accounting: a living systems theory approach. With G.A. Swanson, New York: Quorum Books.

Further reading

  • Bernard W. Agranoff (2003). "James Grier Miller, 1916–2002 : Obituary". In: Neuropsychopharmacology (2003) 28, 2221–2222.
  • Debora Hammond
    Debora Hammond
    Debora Hammond is an American historian of science, Provost and Professor Interdisciplinary Studies of the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at the Sonoma State University...

     and Jennifer Wilby
    Jennifer Wilby
    Jennifer M. Wilby is an American management scientist, and past Director of the Centre for Systems Studies, and a lecturer and researcher in management systems and sciences in The Business School, University of Hull...

     (2006). "The life and work of James Grier Miller". In: Systems Research and Behavioral Science. Volume 23, Issue 3, Pages 429 - 435.
  • G.A. Swanson. "James Grier Miller (1916-)" on ISSS.org.
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