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A Historical Perspective on Development of Systems Engineering Discipline: A Review and Analysis


Since its inception, Systems Engineering (SE) has developed as a distinctive discipline, and there has been significant progress in this field in the past two decades. Compared to other engineering disciplines, SE is not affirmed by a set of underlying fundamental propositions, instead it has emerged as a set of best practices to deal with intricacies stemming from the stochastic nature of engineering complex systems and addressing their problems. Since the existing methodologies and paradigms (dominant patterns of thought and concepts) of SE are very diverse and somewhat fragmented. This appears to create some confusion regarding the design, deployment, operation, and application of SE. The purpose of this paper is 1) to delineate the development of SE from 1926–2017 based on insights derived from a histogram analysis, 2) to discuss the different paradigms and school of thoughts related to SE, 3) to derive a set of fundamental attributes of SE using advanced coding techniques and analysis, and 4) to present a newly developed instrument that could assess the performance of systems engineers. More than Two hundred and fifty different sources have been reviewed in this research in order to demonstrate the development trajectory of the SE discipline based on the frequency of publication.

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We would like to personally thank anonymous reviewers for raising such questions that have transformed this manuscript into a much-improved paper.

Author information

Correspondence to Raed M. Jaradat.

Additional information

Niamat Ullah Ibne Hossain is a doctoral candidate in the department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Mississippi State University. Prior to joining MSU, he received his BS in mechanical engineering from Khulna University of Eng. and Tech and MBA in management information systems from Dhaka University, Bangladesh. His main research interests include systems engineering, systems resilience, systems thinking and systems simulation. His publication appeared in different reputed journals such as Computer and Industrial engineering, International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection, Engineering Management Journal, and Reliability Engineering and System Safety and several conference proceedings and presentations at different academic conferences. He is working in different projects affiliated with National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), Industry, and other Research Laboratories.

Raed Jaradat is an assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Mississippi State University and a visiting professor working with the Institute for Systems Engineering Research/MSU/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Dr. Jaradat received a PhD in engineering management and systems engineering from Old Dominion University in 2014. His main research interests include systems engineering and management systems, systems thinking and complex system exploration, system of systems, virtual reality and complex systems, systems simulation, risk, reliability and vulnerability in critical infrastructures with applications to diverse fields ranging from the military to industry. His total awarded projects exceed 4.8 M including National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense (DOD), Industry, and other Research Laboratories. He received three international awards from the 2018 ASEE National Conference including Industrial Engineering Division’s (IED) Best Paper Award, the New IE Educator Outstanding Paper Award, and best paper for the Professional Interest Council 1 (PIC 1). Dr. Jaradat also serve as a Guest Lead Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Engineering.

Michael A. Hamilton is an associate director at Mississippi State Institute for System Engineering Research (ISER) in Vicksburg, MS. He received his doctorate, master and bachelor degrees in industrial and systems engineering from Mississippi State University and has a graduate certificate in Modeling, Simulation, and Visualization Engineering from Old Dominion University. He also received two certifications in Big Data Analytics from University of California, San Diego and Data Science from John Hopkins University. He worked several years in the printing manufacturing industry where he served in numerous positions such as a Manufacturing Engineer, Global Expansion Engineer, and the Manager of Production Operations for the Memphis Division at

Charles B. Keating is a professor in the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department at Old Dominion University. A faculty member since 1994, he also serves as the director for the National Centers for System of Systems Engineering (NCSOSE) and focuses on teaching and research in the areas of systems engineering, system of system of systems engineering, management cybernetics, and complex system governance. He is a Fellow and Past President of the American Society for Engineering Management and in 2015 was awarded the society’s most prestigious award (the Sarchet Award) for his pioneering efforts in the field. He has authored over 110 peer reviewed papers, generated over 20M in research funding, and graduated 25 Ph.D.s. He holds a B.S. in Engineering from the United States Military Academy (West Point), a M.A. in management from Central Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in engineering management from Old Dominion University.

Simon R. Goerger is the director for the Institute for Systems Engineering Research (ISER), U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). He received his B.S. from the United States Military Academy (USMA), his M.S. National Security Strategy from the National War College, and his M.S. in computer science and his Ph.D. in modeling and simulation both from the Naval Postgraduate School. He was Director of the Operations Research Center of Excellence at USMA.

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Hossain, N.U.I., Jaradat, R.M., Hamilton, M.A. et al. A Historical Perspective on Development of Systems Engineering Discipline: A Review and Analysis. J. Syst. Sci. Syst. Eng. 29, 1–35 (2020).

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  • Systems Engineering (SE)
  • history
  • development
  • systems engineering attributes
  • performance measures