William Edwards Deming (1900 - 1993) was an American statistician who advocated the use of closely monitored reports about the state of factory machines to keep production quality high for the least amount of investment. His system was particularly elegant and effective, in that the number of required observations was surprisingly low in order to determine if a machine needed to be adjusted or replaced, or if an entire batch of product should be discarded or accepted.
Post war Japanese factory owners were the first to adopt Deming's ideas where they were put to dramatic effect, rapidly turning the Japanese economy around. In the ensuing decades, American manufacturers slowly joined the bandwagon, and saw their own production increase as well. The Japanese were so impressed with Deming's genius that their industrial association gives out an annual Deming Prize to the individual most responsible for improvements in industry that year.
Over the course of his career Deming received dozens of academic awards, and upon his death in 1993, the William Edwards Deming Institute was founded as a think tank in Washington D.C to promote his ideas.