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Former professor, MIT alumnus Hammer dies at 60

Michael Hammer, a research affiliate with MIT's Engineering Systems Division who also previously taught as a professor of computer science and was a lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management, died Wednesday after collapsing from apparent cranial bleeding last month. He was 60.

Hammer received an SB (1968), SM (1970) and PhD (1973) from MIT and was the president of Hammer and Company, a business education and research firm focused on cutting-edge issues in operations, organization and management.

After graduating from the Institute, he became an assistant, then associate, professor of computer science at MIT. He was the associate director for the Laboratory for Computer Science, one of the precursors to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

In 1987, he began working full-time as a management consultant, an endeavor he characterized as "research and teaching the theory and practice of why and how enterprises do (and don't do) good work." It was this work that informed and inspired the international best seller "Reengineering the Corporation," which he co-wrote with James Champy.

Hammer was also named by Time magazine to its first list of America's 25 most influential individuals. An engineer by training, Hammer focused on the operational nuts and bolts of business.

Hammer's relentless pursuit of "why?" drove his entire career. "My modus operandi is simple," he once wrote, "though not always easy to carry out. I take nothing at face value. I approach all business issues and practices with the same skepticism: Why?"

A funeral will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 5 in Stanetsky Memorial Chapel, 1668 Beacon St., Brookline. Interment will follow at the Shaarei Tefillah Section of the Chevra Shaas Cemetery at Baker Street Jewish Cemeteries in West Roxbury.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 10, 2008 (download PDF).

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