Russell L. Ackoff was born in 1919. He received his bachelor degree in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1941. He stayed at this university for one year as assistant instructor in philosophy. From 1942 to 1946 he joined the U.S. Army. He returned to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his doctorate in philosophy of science in 1947 as C. West Churchman’s first doctoral student. Next he went on to receive his doctorate of science from the University of Lancaster in 1967.
From 1947 to 1951 Ackoff was assistant professor in philosophy and mathematics at the Wayne State University. He was associate professor and professor operations research at Case Institute of Technology from 1951 to 1964. 1961 and 1962 he was also visiting professor of operational research] at the University of Birmingham. From 1964 to 1986 he was professor of systems sciences and professor of management science at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the 1970s and 1980s the Social Systems sciences Program at the Wharton School was noted for combining theory and practice, escaping disciplinary bounds, and driving students toward independent thought and action. The learning environment was fostered by distinguished standing and visiting faculty such as Eric Trist, C. West Churchman, Haas Ozbekhan, Thomas A. Cowan, and Fred Emery.
Since 1986 Ackoff is professor emeritus of the Wharton School, and chairman of Interact, the Institute for Interactive Management. From 1989 to 1995 he was visiting professor of marketing at the Washington University in St. Louis. He was president of Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) in 1956–1957, and he was president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) in 1987.
Ackoff was awarded a honorary Doctor of Science at the University of Lancaster, UK in 1967. He got a Silver Medal from the Operational Research Society in 1971. Other honors came from the Washington University in St. Louis in 1993, the University of New Haven in 1997, the Pontificia Universidad Catholica Del Peru, Lima in 1999 and the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside, UK in 1999. That year from the UK Systems Society he got an Award for outstanding achievement in Systems Thinking and Practice.