John B. Lathrop

September 16, 1910 – December 11, 1978

Brief Biography

Lathrop Presidential Portrait

John B. Lathrop was the seventh President of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). Lathrop received degrees from the George Washington University and the University of California, Los Angeles, starting his career as an insurance actuary. In 1943, he joined the United States Navy’s Operations Evaluation Group as an operations research analyst during the Second World War.

During the war, Lathrop’s primary work involved the implementation of search theory in anti-submarine warfare and the development of air-to-air-combat techniques. Lathrop was not one to remain behind the analyst’s desk, however. Always preferring to work hands-on, he spent time onboard skinless helicopters searching for German subs in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Unlike many of his colleagues, Lathrop placed himself on the front lines, as on one occasion, while aboard a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, he and the crew were forced to make a crash landing on the northern African coast. Lathrop received the Presidential Certificate of Merit for his contributions to the war effort.

Lathrop remained with OEG for eight years, serving tours abroad in South America and the United Kingdom after the war. Starting in 1948, he began teaching part-time at the Naval War College. In 1951, he left OEG to join the operations research group at Arthur D. Little, Inc. The OR group at ADL was initiated by senior officer Raymond Stevens, who asked Harry B. Wissman to form one of the first nongovernmental operations research consultancy teams. Lathrop was hired to work on manufacturing control, advertising and quality control, joining such OR pioneers as Martin Ernst, John F. Magee, and Arthur A. Brown.

The remainder of Lathrop’s career was spent at Lockheed Aircraft, where he eventually retired as manager of systems analysis. Headquartered in Burbank, California Lathrop made use of his location to continue his teaching, instructing courses on probability and statistics at his alma mater. With Lockheed, his duties involved air-cargo network design, production lot-sizing, computer-aided-design systems, long range manpower planning models, research and development analysis, and rapid-transit network evaluation.

Prior to becoming President of ORSA in 1958, Lathrop served as the society’s Secretary. He played an important role in writing the constitution and bylaws of the organization. Early on, Lathrop was interested in collaboration between ORSA and The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS), proposing a merger between the two as early as 1957. The two organizations did eventually combine in 1995 to form the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Lathrop was named an inaugural Fellow of INFORMS in 2002. 

Other Biographies

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: John B. Lathrop. Accessed June 8, 2015. (link)


George Washington University, BA

University of California, Los Angeles, MEng


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Awards and Honors

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Professional Service

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), President 1958 

Selected Publications

Lathrop J. B. (1954) Production problems bow to operations research. SAE Journal, 62(6): 46.

Lathrop J. B. (1957) Letter to the editor-a-proposal for meeting ORSA and TIMS. Operations Research, 5(1): 123-125. (link)

Lathrop J. B. (1959) Operations research looks to science. Operations Research, 7(4): 423-429.