Charles F. Goodeve

February 21, 1904 – April 7, 1980

Brief Biography

The Canadian-British chemist Charles Frederick Goodeve was an important early proponent of extending OR beyond its military origins; in his later years he worked to extend the subject again, to problems of conflict resolution. Goodeve was born in Manitoba, and attended the University of Manitoba as an art student before transferring into science. In his third year he joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve. He passed his B.Sc. exams in 1925, and remained at Manitoba, earning his M.Sc. in electrochemistry in 1927. He then attended University College London on an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship, undertaking doctoral studies in chemistry under physical chemist Frederick Donnan. In 1928 he was made an assistant lecturer at UCL, and was promoted to lecturer in 1930 and reader in 1937, while pursuing research in photochemistry and absorption spectroscopy. He received his D.Sc. in 1936, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1940.

On his move to Great Britain, Goodeve transferred to the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. In 1936 he began undertaking research on naval weapons and equipment, spending time at H.M.S.Vernon, the Admiralty’s shore-based mine warfare research establishment. When World War II began in 1939, he was posted to H.M.S.Vernonfull time, where he invented the Double Longitudinal mechanism for sweeping magnetic mines. He is also credited with the invention of “degaussing” procedures, which induced a magnetic field in ships counteracting the field that detonated magnetic mines. In 1940 Goodeve instigated the creation of a new research group, the Admiralty’s Inspector of Anti-Aircraft Weapons and Development, which became the Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development in mid-1941. At DMWD he led the development of the Hedgehog anti-submarine weapon, among other accomplishments.

In October 1942 Goodeve was named the Admiralty’s Assistant (later Deputy) Controller for Research and Development, placing him in charge of research and development funding. This position brought him into close contact with Patrick Blackett, the Admiralty’s Chief Adviser on Operational Research (later, Director of Naval Operational Research). The studies conducted by Blackett’s group provided Goodeve with important information about the realities of combat operations, which informed the allocation of funding for the development of new weapons and equipment. Following the war, Goodeve became the director of the new British Iron and Steel Research Association (BISRA), an industry-funded group responsible for conducting R&D on behalf of the industry as a whole. Goodeve created an operational research group at BISRA, which served as a model for other industrial OR groups in Britain at a time when it was unclear what OR groups in industry would do. As director of BISRA, he also promoted the modernization and computerization of management practices in the industry.

Goodeve was also the convener of Britain’s Operational Research Club, which he played in instrumental role in establishing in 1948, until 1953, when it was reconstituted as the Operational Research Society in 1953. As the director of BISRA and an active member of the OR Society and the international OR community, he continued to be a champion of OR for the remainder of his career, though he himself was never a practitioner. Following his retirement from BISRA in 1969, Goodeve dedicated himself more fully to the subject. Against the grain of the body of mathematical theory that had come to dominate OR, he took a broad view of the subject, hoping to extend its reach to tackle the social factors permeating practical problem solving. He worked with Russell Ackoff and Eric Miller to create the Institute for Operational Research at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London, and the Organisation for Promoting Understanding in Society. Although these organizations were never especially influential, they represented some of the highest aspirations for OR in the period.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Charles F. Goodeve
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Wikipedia Entry for Charles F. Goodeve

Naval Museum of Manitoba. People: Sir Charles Goodeve. Accessed April 3, 2015. (link)

University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry. People: Charles F. Goodeve. Accessed April 3, 2015. (link)

F. D. Richardson (1981) Charles Frederick Goodeve. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society,  27: 307–353. Reproduced at University College London Department of Chemistry Website (link)


University of Manitoba, BSc 1925

University of Manitoba, MSc 1927

University of London, DSc 1936


Academic Affiliations
  • University of London
  • University of Manitoba
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • British Iron and Steel Research Association
  • Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapon Development 
  • Royal Canadian Navy
  • The Royal Navy

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas
  • Iron and Steel


Rivett B. H. P. (1980) Obituary: Sir Charles Frederick Goodeve, OBE, FRS. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 31(11): 961-964. (link)

Winnipeg Free Press (1980) Sir Charles Goodeve. May 17. Page 6. 


The Papers of Sir Charles Goodeve. GBR/0014/GOEV. Churchill Archives Center. Cambridge, United Kingdom. (link)

Awards and Honors

Fellow of the Royal Society, 1940

Order of the British Empire, 1942

Operational Research Society Silver Medal, 1964

Professional Service

The Royal Society, Vice-President 1968 - 1970

Operations Research Club, Chairman 1950-1953

Selected Publications

Goodeve C. F. (1948) Operational research. Nature, 161(4089): 377-384.

Goodeve C. F. (1948) Operational research in research associations. Nature, 161 (4094): 584-585.

Goodeve C. F. & Ridley G. R. (1953) A survey of OR in Britain. Operations Research Quarterly, 4(2): 21-24.

Goodeve C. F. (1954) Operational research as a science. Journal of the Operations Research Society of America, 1(4): 166-180.

Goodeve C. F. (1955) Operational research: the front line scientist in the management team. Manager, December: 995-998.

Goodeve C. F. (1957) Man must measure. Journal of the Institute of Transportation, 27(12): 72-82.

Goodeve C. F. (1957) Operational research: the common factor. Engineer, December: 345-346.