Case Western Reserve University (Case Institute of Technology)

History of Operations Research at Case Western Reserve University

 Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, subsequently Case Western Reserve University, played a notable role in the U.S. in the development of education in Operations Research. Education in Operations Research at Case continues to this day.  The first degree program in Operations Research in the U.S. was established in 1951 at Case.  The first official course on Operations Research, “Short Course in Operations Research” was offered annually for a number of years, starting in 1952. The first M.S. degrees were awarded in 1955 to Lawrence Friedman and Maurice Sasieni.  John D.C. Little, who was granted the first Ph.D. in Operations Research, in 1955 from MIT, joined the Case faculty in 1957.  The first Ph.D. degrees in Operations Research at Case were awarded in 1957 to Eliezer Naddor and Maurice Sasieni.  Notable other students at Case during this period were Sidney Hess (Ph.D. 1960), Leon Lasdon (BS 1960 (Syracuse, EE) MS 1962 (Case, EE),Ph.D. 1964 (Case, Systems Engineering)), Katta G. Murty, and Peter Fishburn (M.S. 1961, Ph.D. 1962).  

Case can also lay claim to the first text on Operations Research: Introduction to Operations Research, authored by Case faculty, C. West Churchman, Russell Ackoff, and E. Leonard Arnoff, based on the “Short Course in Operations Research” and published in 1957 by John Wiley & Sons. Ackoff was a founding member of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), and served the organization as its fifth president. Churchman was the first editor of the journal Management Science. Churchman and Ackoff were trained as philosophers of science, and viewed the essence of science to be the scientific method.  They had moved to Case in 1951, in positions made possible by funding from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company and the U. S. Air Force.  Part I of their text with Arnoff formulates a philosophy of practice-oriented OR education based the application of the scientific method by interdisciplinary teams to management problems in comprehensive organizational systems.  This philosophy strongly influenced the early development of OR at Case and in the OR profession.  Sasieni, while still at Case, along with Friedman and Arthur Yaspan wrote another early popular text: Operations Research, Methods and Problems, published in 1959 by John Wiley & Son.

In the late 1950’s to early 1960’s, Case had one of the largest Operations Research groups in the country, including such notables as Ackoff, Arnoff, Churchman, Sasieni, and John D. C. Little. Ellis A. Johnson, the founding director of the Army’s Operations Research Office (ORO), was on the faculty at Case from 1961-1965, following the demise of ORO as a unit of Johns Hopkins University. It was while at Case that Little first formulated his famous queuing formula, Little’s Law (L=λW), relating average number of customers in a queueing system (L) to the average arrival rate of customers (λ) and the average time in system (W). Also, while Little was at Case, he started work with Case students K. G. Murty, C. Karel, and D. Sweeney on the paper “An Algorithm for the TSP”, published in Operations Research in 1963. This is the famous paper that introduced the term “Branch and Bound” for the tree search method of solving combinatorial problems. Also in this time period, James H. Batchelor at Case prepared various editions of the extensive Operations Research, An Annotated Bibliography, published by Saint Louis University Press. At the same time as the OR group was forming at Case, Donald Knuth was an undergraduate in the Math department at Case, graduating with a B.S. and M.S. in 1960. Knuth set the early standards for analysis of algorithms shortly thereafter.

Leon Lasdon joined the Operations Research Department at Case in 1964, after completing his Ph.D. in Systems Engineering. Case also had one of the early Systems Engineering graduate programs. Lasdon received guidance from Shankar Sengupta, one of the Operations Research faculty. Lasdon’s dissertation dealt with decomposition of an optimization problem whose constraints included steady state models of interconnected subsystems, each defined by possibly nonlinear input-output relations. It used a “pricing” approach, which later turned out to be Lagrangian Relaxation. In fall 1964, many of the Operations Research faculty left Case for the Wharton Business School, and Lasdon moved from Systems Engineering and joined the Operations Research Department, teaching courses in linear and nonlinear optimization. The Masters and Ph.D. programs in Operations Research continued to thrive in the ensuing years, led by Burton Dean, with close collaboration between Systems Engineering and Operations Research. Distinguished Ph.D. students during the period 1964-1977 include Benjamin Lev, Evan Porteus, and James Hartman, while faculty include William Pierskalla, Augustine Esogbue, and Narayan Bhat.

In 1966, Lajos Takács joined the Math department at Case. Takács was noted for his extensive publications on queueing theory while at Case. Lasdon moved to the University of Texas in 1977.  In 1971 Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University combined to become Case Western Reserve University.

Links and References

Ackoff RL and EL Arnoff (unpublished, c1960) The History of the Case Institute Operations Research Group

Arnoff EL (1957) Operations Research at Case Institute of Technology.  Operations Research 5:2 Apr 1957, pp. 289-292 (link)

Dean, BV (1994) West Churchman and Operations Research: Case Institute of Technology, 1951–1957. Interfaces 24(4):5-15. (link

Weatherhead School of Management Operations Department

Associated Historic Individuals

Ackoff, Russell L.
Bhat, U. Narayan
Churchman, C. West
Cushen, W. Edward
Esogbue, Augustine O.
Fishburn, Peter C.
Hess, Sidney W.
Johnson, Ellis A.
King, William R.
Knuth, Donald
Lasdon, Leon S.
Lev, Benjamin
Little, John D. C.
Morse, Philip M.
Murty, Katta G.
Pierskalla, William P.
Porteus, Evan L.
Schrady, David A.
Sobel, Matthew J.
Takács, Lajos