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William N. McPhee

William N. McPhee
GSAS 1951–56

Invented computer simulation model of voting.

William N. McPhee invented the first computer simulation model of voting, used it to probe the Wisconsin primary election circa 1960. The Smithsonian Institute in D.C. had a special exhibit describing the IBM 650 and the Columbia group (McPhee, Robert Smith, and Jack Ferguson) who ran the simulations. This was a big event then, combining the resources of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, CBS, and IBM's Watson Laboratory. McPhee served in the Second World War an observer of enemy actions from a single-engined Piper Cub–type plane. Attended Yale University after the war. Became known to Paul F. Lazarsfeld for his ingenious analyses of public opinion data. Became third author of Voting (Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee), author of Formal Theories of Mass Behavior, and Public Opinion and Voting. Fellowship year at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Taught at University of Colorado. Left academics and is living (I think) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For further information contact his friend David Sills or me, Robert Smith (

Submitted by Robert Smith, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 1971, who is solely responsible for the content.

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