Farley R. Cleghorn l Palladium - Mar 07 2024
Remembering Ted Gordon

Theodore J. Gordon

Ted Gordon, a groundbreaking engineer and futurist, and the founder of Futures Group in 1971, died at home on 30th January 2024. He was 93.

Ted formed several future-oriented companies over his career: in 1968, the non-profit Institute for the Future advised on public policy issues; Futures Group in 1971 helped companies and governments make strategic decisions and allocate resources; and in 1996, launched global think tank the Millennium Project to perform studies of global consequence.

All three organisations still exist, and in 2015, Futures Group merged with GRM International to become Palladium.

Knowing the Unknown

Ted remains close to our hearts and a driving force behind solutions to the most pressing problems of our time. From technological innovation and forecasting to the design of analysis and projection methodologies (including the earliest days of ‘computer modelling’), Ted knew how to prove what could work in otherwise uncertain situations.

For Palladium, and for Futures Group before it, this has long been key to our work in international development. Every day our clients bring us problems with a host of unknowns, and a scientific method like Ted’s that brings craft to the art of social change has had game-changing impact for our clients and the world.

What once involved forecasting and prediction for Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., including health care costs for employees, is now being applied to forecasting health care costs for programs such as PEPFAR, which operate in countries across the globe.

A Legacy for the Future

Ted was an innovator of several methods of futures research, an early pioneer and co-author of the first large scale Delphi study (a qualitative method using successive rounds of expert consultation and agreement) on future scientific and technological breakthroughs.

He authored hundreds of reports, technical articles that have appeared in professional and popular literature, and five books dealing with topics associated with the future, space, and scientific and technological developments and issues. He served on the editorial board of several professional journals and consulted with myriad organizations and governments on policy matters, forecasting, and particularly on the design and execution of Real Time Delphi studies.

Ted started his career at McDonnell Douglas and was rapidly promoted to launch control officer at Cape Canaveral, FL for the fledgling NASA space program. He advanced to Chief Engineer where he led a 3,000-person team that developed the Saturn launch vehicle used in the Apollo program. Ted spent many years consulting with the RAND Corporation and was a founding member of the board of directors of the Institute for Global Ethics.

In the late 60s, Ted switched careers and became a futurist specialising in forecasting methodology, planning and policy analysis. He moved his family back to the East Coast to start the Institute for the Future, a think tank dealing with issues concerning the future, such as trends, policies, innovations. He later founded the Futures Group in a town house in Dupont Circle, Washington DC, which he led as CEO for 20 years (passing the helm to Robert Smith, who died in 2022 at age 80).

More recently, Ted was the cofounder and sat on the Board of the Millennium Project, a global participatory think tank that connects futurists around the world. He became an expert on artificial general intelligence and developed models for predicting “lone-wolf” terrorism. Ted’s legacy has been dedicated to improving the human condition and building a better and more sustainable future for all.

Renaissance Man

Ted Gordon was a renaissance man long before the term was used. Ted enjoyed ham radio (W1FAR), traveling, sailing, jazz, Broadway shows, ballet, inventing, and flying. He was an active light sport pilot well into his 90’s. Prior to this, Ted was an avid competitive glider pilot. He was a member of the United Flying Octogenarians (UFO) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 334 based out of Groton, CT. Ted loved to spend time in his workshop; from building models and full-size planes to building race cars with his sons.

Ted will be missed by those who knew him, learned from him, and proudly follow in his footsteps.

With gratitude,
Farley R. Cleghorn