Emeritus Professor Samuel Eilon, a leading figure in the founding of Imperial College Business School, has passed away at the age of 96.
Professor Eilon, a prominent figure throughout his 37 years at Imperial notably created the one-year advanced course in Operational Research & Management Studies. This programme, established in 1961, was instrumental in laying the foundations of the School of Management, which later became Imperial College Business School.
Professor Eilon’s main research interest lay in the areas of production and inventory control, behavioural models of decision processes and industrial applications of operational research. He played an active role in the Institution of Production Engineers and councils for management education and in 1976, was made a founding member of the Fellowship of Engineering (the Academy of Engineering).
Professor Eilon graduated in Electrical Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1945, before going on to serve in the Israeli armed forces. When the time came to adjust his focus back to his career and decide on a location for his postgraduate studies, he had a list of American business schools, including Columbia and the University of Michigan to choose from. It was his old headmaster who suggested Imperial College London as the place to study.
The professor’s arrival in London in 1952 will sound familiar to anyone landing at Gatwick or Heathrow today, with Professor Eilon describing his first impression of the city as “very big and noisy” and “fascinating, with lots to do”. His studies resulted in a Diploma of Imperial College and PhD in 1955, after which he stayed on to become a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He won two Whitworth Prizes for papers published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1960. In 1963, he was awarded a DSc (Eng) and, in 1964, became Professor of Production Engineering. In 1971, he was appointed head of the newly created Department of Management Science.
“Without him [Samuel Eilon], ours wouldn’t be the world-leading business school it is today” Professor Nelson Phillips Associate Dean of External Relations, Business School
Professor Eilon’s career at Imperial was not just one of research and teaching, but of collaboration and friendship and he enjoyed inviting his colleagues into his family home. At times, there would be several Imperial professors sitting around the table in the dining room, the walls of which were covered with smiling faces of peers past and present, as well as the many faces of the growing Eilon family.
Two influential professors left a lasting impression on him: Professor Sir Owen Saunders, Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Professor Willis Jackson, Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering. These two academics not only inspired him during his career at Imperial but were instrumental in influencing social sciences at the College.
Professor Eilon always took care to point out that his success – and that of the Department of Management Science – would not have been possible without the support and contribution of all his colleagues.
Celebratory reception in 2017
In May 2017, then-Acting Dean of the Business School, Professor Nelson Phillips hosted a reception in honour of Professor Samuel Eilon. Attendees included the President of Imperial College London Professor Alice Gast, then-Associate Dean Diane Morgan, Mrs Hannah Eilon, Dr Amir Eilon (the son of Professor Eilon – also an Imperial College Business School graduate) and Dr Joel Bird (Professor Eilon’s grandson).
“What an honour it was to welcome Professor Eilon back to Imperial,” said Professor Phillips at the time. “He was, in effect, the founding Dean of the Business School; thanks to his vision, the Department of Management Science grew from strength to strength. Without him, ours wouldn’t be the world-leading business school it is today.”
In 2019, Professor Eilon was awarded an Imperial College Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the life and work of the College.
Professor Eilon died peacefully at home in June 2020 aged 96.
“Professor Samuel Eilon was a key figure in the foundation of the Business School. I was very fortunate to meet him and have the chance to learn about this warm and generous man who made many significant contributions to business and society. It was an honour to get a sense of the passion he felt for Imperial throughout his life first-hand. He will be greatly missed,” said Professor Francisco Veloso, Dean of the Business School.
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