William J. Horvath

September 13, 1917 – August 4, 2008

Brief Biography

William J. Horvath was an operations specialist during World War and became a leading researcher of healthcare. Born in New York City in 1917, he attended the City College of New York and New York University. At NYU  as a University Fellow he taught physics courses and studied the measurement of neutrons, making the subject the focal point of his dissertation. Horvath received a PhD in Nuclear Physics in 1940.  

Horvath was originally employed by the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ordinance as a physicist, and was assigned to mine warfare problems from 1940 to 1943. He caught the attention of Philip M. Morse and began work with the Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Research Group. Lauded for his work on underwater and air warfare, Horvath was assigned to the command staffs of the Pacific Fleet's Submarine Force and the Naval Air Unit. He remained associated with the Navy’s Operations Evaluation Group (OEG), under the leadership of Jacinto Steinhardt, before joining the research team of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With the Joint Chiefs, Horvath led the undersea warfare section from 1946 to 1948. He became Deputy Director of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group in 1949. After leaving his position with the Joint Chiefs, Horvath remained on the group’s review board. He had a continued affiliation with OEG as well. As an advisor to the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Undersea Warfare and Operations Research Consultant to the Naval Attaché in London he helped secure OEG’s status in the naval research community. For his service, Horvath was awarded the Naval Ordnance Development Award in 1945 and the Presidential Certificate of Merit in 1947.

Starting in 1955, Horvath became the Section Head of the Biological and Medical Electronics group at the Airborne Instrument Laboratory. That same year, he wrote a letter to the editor of Operations Research, commenting on the state of OR. Horvath believed that most operations analysts were motivated either by patriotism in time of war or the prospect of monetary gain in time of peace. He called for a promotional effort to motivate his colleagues and next-generation specialists to pursue OR fields that were beneficial to society rather than for reasons driven by personal gain. As a founding member and vice president of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), Horvath initiated programs to incorporate OR in municipal operations and health care. He additionally served as chairman of the socieity's Health Applications Section. For his service to ORSA, he was awarded the George E. Kimball Medal in 1977. 

Starting in 1958, Horvath began a long working relationship with the Mental Health Research Institute at the University of Michigan, eventually becoming a professor with the school’s Department of Psychiatry. Up to his retirement, he was an avid researcher and developer of mathematical theories of behavior. Horvath served as associate director of the University’s Health Services Research Center and supplemented his behavioral studies with research on services delivery, nerve networks, and medical diagnosis.

Later in his career, Horvath consulted with a number of federal agencies including the Health Services Study Section of the National Institutes of Health and the Health Care Facilities Ad Hoc Advisory Committee of U.S. Public Health Service. Horvath retired in 1988 and passed away in 2004.

Other Biographies

University of Michigan Faculty History Project. William J. Horvath Memoir. Regents Proceedings 305.  Accessed March 1, 2019. (link

(1955) Lecture on Operations Research: William J. Horvath. The Bulletin Board: Brookhaven Employees' Recreation Association, 7(37): 1. (link)


City College of New York, BS 1936

New York University, MS 1938

New York University, PhD 1940


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


William J. Horvath papers, 1940-1985. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. Anne Arbor, MI. (link

Awards and Honors

Naval Ordnance Development Award 1945

Presidential Certificate of Merit 1947

George E. Kimball Medal 1977

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Selected Publications

Horvath W. J. (1955) Letter to the Editor—Some Thoughts on Operations Research on Municipal Operations. Journal of the Operations Research Society of America, 3(3):339-340.

Horvath W. J. & Rapoport A. (1959) Thoughts on organization theory. Rapoport A. & von Bertalanffy L., eds. in General Systems, Yearbook of the Society for General Systems Research, Volume IV, 87-91. Society for General Systems Research: Pocklington, UK.

Horvath W. J. & Rapoport A. (1961) A study of a large sociogram. Behavioral Science, 6(4): 279-291.

Foster C. C. & Horvath W. J. (1963) Stochastic models of war alliances. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 7(2): 110-116.

Horvath W. J. (1965) A mathematical model of participation in small group discussions. Behavioral Science, 10(2): 164-166.

Horvath W. J. (1968) A statistical model for the duration of wars and strikes. Behavioral Science, 13(1): 18-28.

Horvath W. J. (1968) Free For All, Guest Editorial. Management Science, 14(6): B-275-B-279.

Becker M. H., Dielman T. E., Horvath W. J, Leech S. L.,  Radius S. M., & Rosenstock, I. M. (1980) Dimensions of children's health beliefs. Health Education & Behavior, 7(3): 219-238.