Carl M. Harris

March 29, 1940 – April 25, 2000

Brief Biography

Harris Presidential Gallery Portrait

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Carl M. Harris was the thirty-ninth president of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). Harris grew up in Queens where he remained for his undergraduate education, receiving a BA in mathematics from Queens College. He completed his graduate work at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. He wrote a pioneering dissertation on queues with state-dependent service. Upon completing graduate study, Harris joined the Western Electric Engineering Research Center but shortly after left for the Research Analysis Corporation in Virginia.

Harris joined the faculty of the Operations Research Department at George Washington University and developed a close relationship with Donald Gross. The pair co-authored Fundamental of Queueing Theory (1974), an introductory text to queueing theory that has remained popular since its publication for its clear and detailed exposition of the subject. Harris left GW in 1975 to accept the chairmanship of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Syracuse University before returning to D.C. area to form the Harris-Smith Research Company in Arlington.

In 1981, Harris returned to academia and joined the University of Virginia, leaving after four years to accept a position at George Mason University, remaining there for the rest of his life. Though Harris largely dealt with theoretical issues, he never lost sight of practical application. As his work focused on probability modeling, he saw his interests cover a large spectrum of application including queueing analysis for the Internal Revenue Service and epidemiological modeling. During his periods in and around Washington, Harris consulted for numerous government agencies including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Bureau of Census, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Departments of Justice and the Treasury.

In 1996, Harris and Saul Gass published the Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Sciences, the first encyclopedic overview of these subjects. Harris was responsible for keeping in order the flow of manuscripts between him, Gass, and the two hundred contributing authors. Always looking to leave a humorous impact, Harris was adamant to include the only English word with five vowels in row, therefore breaking tradition and spelling queueing with an added “e”.

An active member in the professional operations research community, Harris served a Secretary of ORSA prior to his presidency in 1990. He took pride in his chairmanship of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS)/ORSA Spring 1988 meeting, the largest ever such gathering that helped lead to the eventual merger of the two societies in 1995. With the resulting organization, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), Harris was actively involved with the Public Awareness and History and Traditions Committees and chaired the Applied Probability Society. He received the George E. Kimball Medal for his devoted service in 1999. After Harris’s passing in 2000, INFORMS jointly named its Presidential Portrait Gallery after him and Hugh Miser.

Other Biographies

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Portrait Gallery: Carl M. Harris. Accessed June 15, 2015. (link)


Queens College, BA 

Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, PhD 1966


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Image Gallery and Slideshow