Richard W. Conway

December 12, 1931 – March 19, 2024

Brief Biography

Richard W. Conway was educated at and spent his entire career with Cornell University. As a graduate student, Conway first learned of digital simulation by reading a series of articles written by Jim Jackson and his students at the University of California, Los Angeles. Conway started simulation work in 1956-57 in anticipation of a PhD thesis. Since there were no simulation courses at Cornell, he taught himself entirely by trial and error. Looking back, Conway describes the experience as "embarrassing for how crude it all was." Around this time he met Harry Markowitz, who encouraged him to pursue simulation to its fullest potential.

After receiving his PhD in 1958 under the supervision of Andy Schultz, Conway took on his close friend and collaborator, William Maxwell, as his first PhD student. In 1961 Conway took a sabbatical and worked at the RAND Corporation. At RAND, he was assigned to run the night shift tests on various machines such as the IBM 704. In the process he tested Markowitz's SIMSCRIPT language and effectively became its first practicing programmer.

Conway's book, The Theory of Scheduling (1969), was an attempt to bring various scheduling papers together into one publication. He wrote it with Maxwell and another Cornell PhD student, Louis W. Miller. They believed that the timing was right and the subject needed to be organized. Conway sees the lasting success and use of the book is a testament to the strength of its presentation and content. When it was republished in 2003, there were no significant additions require.

Always looking to get into new areas from the ground up, Conway decided to take a proactive stance and with Robert Walker of the Department of Mathematics, promoted the idea of a Department of Computer Science at Cornell.  They approached Schultz and the Dean of the College of the Engineering, with the proposal. Schultz helped shepherd them through the politics of the university's bureaucracy. Walker and Conway successfully received a one million dollar grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to create the program – the first Cornell academic department spanning two of Cornell’s colleges, Engineering plus Arts and Sciences.

As the computer science department became more theoretical with time, Conway took an opportunity to enhance the Cornell Business School and started teaching introductory data processing to MBA candidates. He saw a department change as an opportunity to pursue applied work in simulation and scheduling and therefore switched to the business school full-time. After eight years, Conway got National Science Foundation money to create a fifteen credit course entitled, "Semester in Manufacturing". Half the time was spent visiting manufacturing plants and the other half was spent in the classroom, teaching the application of wealth manipulation in industry. Over his career, Conway switched departments two times at Cornell, first from Industrial Engineering/Operations Research to Computer Science, and then to the Business School. He also served as director of Cornell’s Office of Computing Services.

Conway was a developer and co-author of numerous computer programming languages. The first was CORC (Cornell Compiler). This language was unique and path breaking in that it had extensive error detection and repair.  If the compiler detected a syntax error, such as a spelling error, the compiler made a best guess at correction or repair so that the program always made it to the execution step. He authored a book series designed to offer a basic introduction of programming to nonprofessionals. Conway was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 1992 and is a Fellow of Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. He was the Emerson Electric Company Professor of Manufacturing Management, Emeritus at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. 

Other Biographies

Richard Conway biography (2010) Production and Operations Management, vol. 19 no. 3 pp ix -x. (link)


Cornell Universty, BME 1954

Cornell University, PhD 1958 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Conway Interview by David Gries

Conway, R. W. (2014) Interview by Robert G. Sargent, June 11. Cornell University: Ithaca, NY. NCSU Computer Simulation Archive. Raleigh, North Carolina. (video)

Conway, R.W. and W. L. Maxwell (2014) Interview by Robert G. Sargent, June 11. Cornell University: Ithaca New York. NCSU Computer Simulation Archive. Raleigh, North Carolina. (video)

Conway, R. W. (2015) Interview by David Gries.  eCommons, Cornell University: Ithaca, NY (video)

Image Gallery and Slideshow

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Cornell University Office of Information Technologies. Oral and Personal Histories of Computing at Cornell: Dick Conway Recollections, 1951-2000. (Archived) 


Cornell Chronicle, March 28, 2024

Awards and Honors

National Academy of Engineering 1992

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Selected Publications

Conway R. W. & Schultz A. (1958) The manufacturing progress function. Dept. of Industrial and Engineering Administration, Cornell University: Ithaca, New York.

Conway R. W., Johnson B. M., & Maxwell W. L. (1959) Some problems of digital systems simulation. Management Science, 6(1): 92-110.

Conway R. W. & Maxwell W. L. (1962) A queueing model with state dependent service rates. Journal of Industrial Engineering, 12:132-136.

Conway R. W. (1963) Some tactical problems in digital simulation. Management science,10(1): 47-61.

Conway R. W. (1964) An experimental investigation of priority assignment in a job shop. RAND Corporation: Santa Monica, CA.

Conway R. W., Maxwell W. L., & Miller L. W. (1967) Theory of Scheduling. Addison-Wesley: New York.

D. Gries & R.W. Conway (1973) An Introduction to Programming. Winthrop Publishers: Cambridge, MA.

Archer J. E. & Conway R. W. (1979) Programming for Poets: A Gentle Introduction Using BASIC. Winthrop Publishers: Cambridge, MA.

Conway R. & Maxwell W. L. (1986) XCELL: a cellular, graphical factory modelling system. Proceedings of the 18th conference on Winter Simulation, 160-163. Association for Computing Machinery: New York.