Charles Perrow (1953)

Charles Bryce Perrow, best known as "Chick," died peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at home in Whitney Center at age 94. Chick was born Feb. 9, 1925 in Tacoma, Washington. Chick served in WWII in the 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers. He attended the experimental Black Mountain College in NC before getting his undergraduate degree and PhD from Berkeley (1953, 1960). After teaching at the University of Michigan, he went on to hold positions at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Wisconsin, and SUNY Stony Brook. In 1981, he joined Yale and became Emeritus in 2000. Chick was a giant figure in the world of organizational sociology and is best known for his six books and more than fifty articles examining bureaucracies, capitalism and complex systems. His most widely-acclaimed book, Normal Accidents (1984), has been cited more than 12,000 times. As emeritus professor, he held visiting positions at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, and at the University of Bologna. In retirement, Chick remained an active member of Yale's and Stanford's sociology community. Famed for his analytic mind, Perrow accumulated multiple fellowships, awards, elected offices and honors in his lifetime. Earlier this year, Chick was awarded the Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association. Chick is survived by his loving wife Barbara Cooley Wareck Perrow. His first wife, Edith Lichtenberg, passed away in 1994. Chick is also survived by two children Nicholas and Darragh Perrow, two grandchildren Alexa and Samantha, step-children James, John, and Anne Wareck, and 6 step-grandchildren.

Published in The New Haven Register on Nov. 26, 2019


After a quarter at the U. of Washington, two years at Black Mountain College in N.C., a year bumming about in NYC, and a brief stay at Reed College, I entered Berkeley as an undergraduate, reclaiming one year's worth of credit, and plowed through to the PhD. My personal turmoils matched that of the department, which was gutted by the loyalty oath issue but resurrected by Blumer. An undergraduate course with Bock on the Idea of Progress stabilized my direction; I was not going to write the great American novel, sociology was easier. Then came Selznick , Lipset, Goffman, Kornhauser, Shibutani and so on. With an equally stunning group of fellow graduate students to learn from, and Bendix (MA thesis) and Selznick (PhD thesis) as mentors, I drifted into organizational analysis because there was almost no literature to read (I still am a slow reader). Berkeley student unrest broke out just as I left for my first job at Michigan; we had been the silent generation, but the leftist urges were all about me. Graduate student life at Berkeley, of course, was idyllic, compared to that of an assistant professor in the Michigan department, which encouraged me to leave after five years. Since then I have had to leave Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Stony Brook, finally serving out my sentence at Yale. My cohort was good, but the market was even better as universities, sociology, organizations, and organizational theory grew; it was easy to be tenured, easy to move on.

Berkeley encouraged my critical stance toward my field and toward society; Michigan didn't, but when I was tenured at Wisconsin I could say what I pleased and had the freedom to leave that university in protest over its repression of anti-Vietnam war activities. Happenstance, almost a normal accident" immersed me in the Three Mile Island story and vectored my career for over a decade. But last year I finally published a cherished project on the origins of U.S. capitalism and its corrosive power."

Dissertation Title
Authority, Goals, and Prestige in a General Hospital
Entry Year
Decease On