Seymour Melman, professor emeritus of industrial engineering and operations research, died on Dec. 16 at his home in Manhattan. He was 86 years old.
Melman was considered the grandfather of the economic conversion movement, the process of transitioning military facilities for civilian uses. A noted antiwar activist, Melman was critical of United States military spending, contending it diverted funds from domestic programs.
For 50 years, Melman wrote and spoke about industrial economic topics, including workplace democracy, evaluations of industrial operations, productivity of labor and capital, administrative overhead and disarmament in the U.S. and abroad. He argued against the belief that World War II helped revive the U.S. from the Great Depression, countering that it was other factors that revived the economy.
He taught at Columbia for 40 years and encouraged a generation of engineers to consider the mechanics of industrial production and the social impact of their work.
Melman is the former president of the Association for Evolutionary Economics; vice president of the New York Academy of Sciences; co-chair of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy; and chair of The National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament. He was a consultant to the United Nations on economic conversion in 1979 and 1980.
His books include Peace Race (1961), Our Depleted Society (1965), Pentagon Capitalism (1970), Permanent War Economy (1974), Profits Without Production (1983), The Demilitarized Society (1988) and After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Democracy (2001).
Born in the Bronx on Dec. 30, 1917, Melman received a B.S. in economics from City College in 1939. He served in the army during World War II and received a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia in 1949.
He is survived by his brother, Myron.