Charles B. Perrow

Professor of Sociology

Charles B. PerrowChick Perrow, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University of California at Berkeley, faculty member at Yale since 1981: you as much as anyone at Yale has a deep understanding of the relationship of organizations to the social order. Perhaps most widely recognized for your book Normal Accidents, first published in 1984 and re-issued last summer in time for the new millennium, you have repeatedly impressed your readers with your sharp insights into the unexpected outcomes of seemingly routine and normal organizational practices. Beginning with an initial study of a general hospital, and then of prisons, industrial corporations, high risk systems, and finally the Aids epidemic, you have shown how complex operating systems are destined to produce disasters, and in so doing have changed the way in which scholars, administrators, and policy makers understand the seemingly simple, and often invisible, organizational routines that create the foundations for social tragedy.

Faculty member during a long and earlier distinguished career at the University of Michigan, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Wisconsin, and SUNY at Stony Brook, you have in those universities, as well as at Yale, trained two generations of leaders in the sociology of organizations. In honor of your research and teaching over the years, you have recently been honored with two special plenary sessions, the first at the American Academy of Management and the second at the 1999 annual meetings of the American Sociological Association. Always an exuberant spirit, one colleague in your department speaks of you as “raising the intellectual temperature of any place you inhabit.” Looked to by the external world for your expertise in knowing how organizations work, the internal organization that is known as the faculty of Yale University commends you warmly today as you retire from its ranks.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans