Marcel Neuts Lectures of the Department of Statistics Purdue University

September,  2015

Writer(s): Dr. V. Ramaswami

of the Department of Statistics
Purdue University 

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Marcel Neuts was more than a man, a true phenomenon. The algorithmic approach he pioneered breathed a fresh life into Queueing Theory and into Applied Probability in general. Among the many things Purdue can be proud of is the fact that Marcel’s work in this area originated and crystalized at Purdue during Marcel's tenure there as a Professor of Statistics, and the true impetus for it came from his interactions with Purdue's industry consultants that identified the need for new methods.

The extensive technical contributions of Marcel Neuts fall under two broad categories: (i) Phase type distributions and related point processes which provide versatile classes of general probability and stochastic process models; (ii) Algorithmic methods for structured Markov chains – specifically chains of the M/G/1 and the GI/M/1 types.  Each of these is now a vast topic in its own right. Their reach is now very wide as the methods continue to get extended much more significantly by his former students and others.  The primary tools used by Neuts were nonlinear matrix iterative techniques, a subject area in which he was a leading expert. The methods have found numerous applications, particularly in telecommunications and computer performance as will be seen from the various papersin the journals of the IEEE, and ACM and have helped to drive the design of many real world systems and international standards.

Equally as for his technical work, Marcel will be remembered for his relentless championing of algorithmic methods in probability. Through his own work and strict standards exercised as a referee and editor, he increased not only the use of numerical methods in probability but also the quality standards in reporting them. To him, good algorithmic research was equivalent to a laboratory experiment demanding utmost care and full of theoretical challenges as well. Extensive testing and the honest reporting both of successes and failures were an integral part of the work. Marcel spread these messages through numerous lectures, many writings, and the founding of the flagship journal Stochastic Models. 

Friends and students will remember Marcel not only as a very tall man physically but also as one who would bend down to help them. Though he has numerous co-authors, Marcel would never put his name on a paper to which he had not contributed significantly. To him, every paper had to be executed as though it were a doctoral thesis, and the true measure of a researcher is "what is left after one distills all that one has written" and how well the contributions survive the test of time – criteria his work consistently exceeded.

The students and friends of Marcel Neuts are privileged to honor his memory by endowing the Marcel Neuts Lectures of the Department of Statistics, Purdue University. Among others, these lectures, to be held at major national and international conferences under the sponsorship of Purdue, will continue to uphold the values cherished by Marcel and support many promising researchers in applied probability.


  • Born in 1935 in Ostend, Belgium
  • Emigrated to the US in 1958 as a Ph.D. student at Stanford
  • Married Olga Topff in 1959
  • Children: Chris, Myriam, Kitty & Debbie
  • Graduated with Ph.D from Stanford in 1961 – advisor Prof. Samuel Karlin
  • Faculty at Purdue University 1962-1976
  • Unidel Chair, Distinguished Professor, University of Delaware 1976-1985
  • Professor, University of Arizona, 1985-1997
  • Author of 4 books and over 125 research articles
  • Numerous awards and fellowships
  • Died 3/9/2014 in Tucson, Arizona


List of papers:

Alfa, A. S. and Ramaswami, V.  Matrix Analytic Method: Overview and History. Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science, 2011.

Some tributes from around the world:  Stochastic Models, Volume 27, Issue 4, 2011 – a special issue in honor of Professor Marcel Neuts.

Video message from Marcel Neuts to fellow researchers: