Franz Edelman

January 16, 1922 – January 15, 1982

Brief Biography

Franz Edelman

Franz Edelman is counted among the fathers of innovation in OR/MS. Coming of age in Hitler's Germany, Edelman dedicated his career to facilitating better decisions on matters great and small through operations research. Today, his discoveries, along with other OR/MS pioneers, inspire initiatives to help leaders get better results in every sector of management and operations.

This top INFORMS practice prize was named after Franz Edelman shortly after his death in 1982. He established one of the earliest industrial OR/MS groups in North America at RCA, where he worked for over 30 years as O.R. director.

Franz Edelman died suddenly on January 15, 1982. He learned about the capriciousness of life from his early experiences, fleeing to England from his native Germany at the age of 16, only to be interned as an alien and sent to Canada for an interlude of lumberjacking. He received his undergraduate education at McGill University, and he obtained a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Brown University.

Franz joined the RCA Corporation as an engineer to apply his knowledge of rheology to the manufacture of phonograph records. In this way he became involved with computational problems, and was attracted strongly to the use of computers in analysis. Initially, Franz solved physical problems. Rapidly he came to envision the great value of computer systems in business. He established the Operations Research Group (one of the first OR/MS groups in North America) and became Director of Operations Research, always balancing analysis and systems to the benefit of both.

Franz always strove to achieve positive results. He would first develop the best interpretation of the facts which he could assemble before him. From that base he would prepare an orderly and creative plan. Then he would charge into the fray. The result was usually rewarding. He wanted to be personally involved in whatever needed doing. That is why, for instance, he would sit down with a clerk and share the job until he really understood it.

Franz always responded to a legitimate request for help. As a result, he found himself cast in a leadership role over a broad spectrum of activities – community, professional, educational, and religious. That is also why so many people came to him for help and counsel.

A central focus of Franz's life was computer systems. He learned and taught. New ways to behave became possible. His immortality is assured by the imaginative way that he organized and used computer systems in the human environment – to permit all activities to be handled by a single system, from analytical to clerical to managerial.

Having become Staff Vice President of Business Systems and Analysis, Franz retired a year after 30 years of service to RCA in order to organize Edelman Associates. In September, 1982 he was awarded the SMIS prize for his paper, "Managers, Computers, and Productivity," which summarizes much of the experience at RCA in conceiving, designing, and using a live decision support environment.

Franz actively participated in both ORSA and TIMS, serving TIMS as Vice President of Finance.

IMMS established the Franz Edelman Fund to provide an opportunity for his colleagues to honor his memory in a way which will advance the profession.