Joseph Juran's life was all about quality. But neither did it lack quantity -- Juran was 103 when he died Thursday in Rye, N.Y.
In a classroom and on a chess board, in wartime and in postwar Japan, and most especially in the world of business, Juran made indelible marks. His groundbreaking theories on industrial quality and business efficiency will continue to be taught and followed, said Jim Buckman, director of the University of Minnesota's Joseph Juran Center for Leadership in Quality.
"His  autobiography is called 'Architect of Quality,' and the title truly fit," Buckman said. "The definition of genius is to see relationships that others don't see, and he had that. But he was also flat-out, stone-cold ... brilliant."
That much became clear shortly after Juran, who was born on Christmas Eve in 1904, arrived in Minneapolis from Romania in 1912. He started school two years behind his peers, speaking no English, and skipped two grades en route to graduating from high school with honors at age 16, Buckman said.
Juran sold newspapers at streetcar stops and mastered chess by playing in the dark -- the family had no electricity in its northeast Minneapolis home -- as he and younger brother Nathan swapped maneuvers in their bedroom.
He also learned to move as quickly as he thought. "Joseph was a very teeny guy, but he always walked really fast," Buckman said. "He said it was because it was so damn cold all the time in Minneapolis, he had to keep moving just to stay warm."
Juran became the University of Minnesota's chess champion while earning a degree in electrical engineering. He left Minneapolis after graduation, embarking on a career that would take him and his ideas around the world.
He first moved to Chicago to work for Western Electric's Hawthorne Works and rose quickly through the ranks.
In 1940, he went to Washington and overhauled the logistics of the U.S. Lend- Lease program, reducing the delivery time for getting supplies to the Allies from 99 to 36 days.
His "Quality Control Handbook," published in 1951 (and still in print), had a profound influence worldwide. In the mid-1950s Juran started working with Japanese leaders on their postwar rebuilding. By 1966, that nation's business climate was robust, and Juran was promoting the Japanese model of quality circles. Jungi Noguchi, executive director of the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers, has called Juran "the greatest authority on quality control in the entire world."
In 1979, Juran started the Juran Institute, a consulting firm, near his home in Connecticut. He also founded the nonprofit Juran Foundation, which he merged into the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management in 1998.
"He had phenomenal intellectual gifts but also enormous self-discipline," Buckman said. "He could take complex and interrelated things and make them simple. His ability to deeply understand things and explain them to others was the heart of his gift."
Juran is survived by his wife, Sadie; children Donald, Charles, Robert and Sylvia; nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
The New York Times contributed to this report. Bill Ward • 612-673-7643