Abraham Charnes

September 4, 1917 – December 19, 1992

Brief Biography

Abraham Charnes

Abraham Charnes was a major participant in the advancement of operations research, linear programming, optimization, mathematics, and numerous other areas. He was one of the great figures in management sciences and a pivotal character in the establishment of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS). Charnes was born in Hopewell, Virginia and moved to Chicago when he was six years old. He attended a technical high school and entered the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) where he received all of his degrees. Studying mathematics, Charnes paused his education to serve in the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance during World War II. After working on such problems as electromagnetics, torpedo control, and weapon damage assessment, he returned to Illinois to earn his PhD.

After his graduation, Charnes began a lengthy academic career, starting first at Carnegie Institute of Technology (1948-1955). At Carnegie, he taught  Carlton E. Lemke. It was here where Charnes also met lifelong collaborator, William W. Cooper. Charnes would later move to Purdue University and Northwestern University to teach applied mathematics. In 1968, he eventually settled at the University of Texas at Austin where he was hired by his former colleague and dean of the business school, George Kozmetsky. Charnes remained in Austin until his death in 1992.

Charnes made a variety of contributions to operations research and management sciences.  In his research, Charnes devised new mathematical formulations that were motivated by real-world applications and incorporated traditional, theoretical approaches. With Cooper, he jointly developed such areas as goal programming and data envelopment analysis (DEA), a form of linear programming that determines whether decision making units in an organization are making efficient use of their inputs and outputs, and fractional programming, an approach that optimizes ratios, such as profit/capital, that are not typically linear functions of the decision variables.

Over his career, Charnes developed a serious interest in the application to operations research in transportation problems. During his Purdue and Northwestern years, he offered mixed-integer programming solutions to transportation issues. This focus extended to broader engineering areas as well. He investigated applications that stemmed from sanitary and environment engineering. As a member of Kozmetsky’s renowned faculty at the University of Texas, Charnes explored financing areas and developed financial flow models with Merton Miller.

Charnes received numerous accolades for his work. During an event celebrating his sixtieth birthday, Charnes received the U.S. Navy Medal for Public Service, the Navy’s highest civilian award. In 1982, he was jointly awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize of ORSA and TIMS with Cooper and Richard J. Duffin. They were recognized for their “fundamental contributions to optimization methods, concepts, and models for problems of decision, planning and design.” In 2006, he was posthumously awarded the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences’ IMPACT Prize for his development of DEA. As of Spring 2015, Charnes is one of only twenty-three individuals to be elected into the International Federation of Operational Research Societies’ Hall of Fame. 

With Cooper, Kozmetsky, Merrill Flood, Andrew Vazsonyi, and Mel Salveson, Charnes played a major role in the establishment of TIMS. He served as the organization’s seventh president. Over his entire career, he published over four hundred articles and seven books. In addition to his significant research strides, Charnes is fondly remembered for the influence he had on his students as a phenomenal educator.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Abraham Charnes
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INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: Abraham Charnes. Accessed February 26, 2015. (link)

Kortanek KO (1980), „A Biography of Professor A. Charnes and His Scientific Work“, In:  A. V. Fiacco and  K. O. Kortanek (Eds.), Extremal Methods and Systems Analysis An International Symposium on the Occasion of Professor Abraham Charnes’ Sixtieth Birthday Austin, Texas, September 13 – 15, 1977, pp. 2 – 9.

Phillips F, Seiford L (2006) IFORS' Operational Research Hall of Fame: Abraham Charnes. International Transactions in Operations Research, 13(3): 273-277. (link)


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BA 1938

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MS 1939

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, PhD 1947 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

  • Data Envelopment Analysis
Application Areas


Lewin A. Y. & Littlechild S. C. (1997) Abraham Charnes remembered. Annals of Operations Research, 73(0): 373-387.

Philips F (1997), "In Memoriam Abraham Charnes, 1917 – 1992“, In: A. Y. Lewin and L. M. Seiford (Eds.), From Efficiency Calculations to a New Approach  for Organizing and Analyzing: DEA Fifteen Years Later, Annals of Operations Research, 73, 389 – 391.

Abraham Charnes (1917-1992). Journal of Information and Optimization Sciences, 15(2): 163-164.

The University of Texas at Austin Faculty Council. Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches: In Memoriam, Abraham Charnes. Published February 6, 2001. Accessed February 26, 2015. (link)

Awards and Honors

U.S. Navy Medal for Public Service 1977

John von Neumann Theory Prize 1982

CORS Harold Larnder Prize 1989

IFORS' Operational Research Hall of Fame 2004

INFORMS Impact Prize 2006

Professional Service

The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS), President 1960

Selected Publications

Charnes, A. (1952). Optimality and degeneracy in linear programming. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society, 27(2): 160-170.

Charnes A., Cooper W. W., & Mellon B. (1952) Blending in aviation gasolines - a study in programming interdependent activities. Goldstein L. & Orden A., eds. in Proceedings: Symposium on Linear Inequalities and Programming, 115-145. USAF Headquarters: Washington, D.C. 

Charnes A., Cooper W. W., & Henderson A. (1953) An Introduction to Linear Programming. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Charnes A. & Cooper W. W. (1954) The stepping stone method of explaining linear programming calculations in transportation problems. Management Science, 1(1): 49-69.

Charnes A. & Cooper W. W. (1961) Management Models and Industrial Applications of Linear Programming, Volume I. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Charnes A. & Cooper W. W. (1962) Programming with linear fractional functionals. Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 9(3‐4): 181-186.

Charnes A. & Cooper W. W. (1977) Goal programming and multiple objective optimizations: Part 1. European Journal of Operational Research, 1(1): 39-54.

Charnes A., Cooper W. W., & Rhodes E. (1981) Evaluating program and managerial efficiency: an application of data envelopment analysis to program follow through. Management science, 27(6): 668-697.

Banker R. D., Charnes A., & Cooper W. W. (1984) Some models for estimating technical and scale inefficiencies in data envelopment analysis. Management Science, 30(9): 1078-1092.

Charnes A., ed. (1994) Data Envelopment Analysis: Theory, Methodology, and Applications: Theory, Methodology and Applications. Springer Science & Business Media: New York.