Robert E. Machol

October 16, 1917 – November 12, 1998

Brief Biography

Machol Presidential Portrait

Robert Engel Machol was born and raised in New York City. He studied chemistry at Harvard University and received his BA in 1940. On the eve of the Second World War, Machol enlisted in the United States Navy with dreams of becoming a pilot. Though he ultimately failed in meeting this goal, Machol reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander by war's end. Afterwards, he remained with the Navy and joined the Operations Evaluation Group (OEG), where he edited their scientific articles.

Machol’s editorial experience led to his appointment  as Technical Editor for the University of Michigan’s Willow Run Laboratories. In this position he interacted with applied systems engineering research and computer science, working alongside many leading figures in a new generation of information scientists, including Paul Gray. Machol worked primarily on enhancing air defense systems and co-authored Systems Engineering in 1957. He earned a PhD in chemistry from Michigan the following year. Machol was hired as a professor of electrical engineering at Purdue University before joining Conductron, a technology startup. Machol moved to the University of Illinois, Chicago in 1964 as chairman of the Department of Systems Engineering prior to settling at Northwestern University as a systems professor. He remained with Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management for nineteen years.

Over the course of his career Machol covered numerous topics in his research and publications. In addition to his work with systems engineering, he played a major role in bringing operations research to commercial airlines. Unable to fulfill his lifelong piloting ambitions, Machol nonetheless consulted with the Airline Pilots Association. He made monumental strides in making air travel safer in areas where radar was not available. After retiring from Northwestern in 1987, he served as the Chief Scientist for the Federal Aviation Administration. Machol researched the dangers to small aircraft and developed methods to prevent aircraft collision.

In the 1970s, Machol was serious player in the application of operations research to professional sports. He worked with representatives from such associations as the National Football League. Machol edited two major works on the subject and helped integrate management sciences into the sporting world.

Fiercely dedicated to the service and growth of operations research, Machol was an active member of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) and the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). His editorial experience made him an ideal chairman for ORSA’s Publications Committee. He also worked as the editor of the TIMS publication Studies in Management Science. Machol was elected as the twentieth president of ORSA in 1970. During his tenure he helped resolve a controversial issue brought forward by a damning report that could have caused serious divisions among the OR scientific communities. For his dedication to ORSA and TIMS, Machol was award the George E. Kimball Medal in 1992.

Machol passed away in 1998 after a lengthy battle with cancer and heart disease. Over the course of his career, he influenced numerous practitioners and theorists alike. He is fondly remembered as a man of brilliance, elegance, and extraordinary gallantry.

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for Robert E. Machol

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: Robert E. Machol. Accessed February 4, 2015. (link)


Harvard University, BA 1940

University of Michigan, PhD 1958


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Chicago Tribune (1998) Obituaries: Robert Machol, Air Safety Expert, November 15. (link)

Gray P. (1998) In Memorium: Robert Engel Machol. OR/MS Today, 4(1). (link)


Box 3, Folder 11. J. L. Kellog Graduate School of Management Banking Research Center Working Papers and Reprints. Banking Research Center. Northwestern University. (link)

Awards and Honors

George E. Kimball Medal 1992

Professional Service

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), President 1971, Secretary 1967

Selected Publications

Goode H. H. & Machol R. E. (1957) Systems Engineering: An Introduction to the Design of Large-Scale Systems. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Machol R. E., ed. (1960) Information and decision processes. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Gray P. & Machol R. E. (1962) Recent Developments in Information and Decision Processes. Macmillan Company: New York.

Alexander S. N., Machol R. E., & Tanner W. P. (1965) Systems Engineering Handbook. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Carter V. & Machol R. E. (1971) Technical Notes - Operations Research on Football. Operations Research, 19(2): 541-544.

Machol R. E. (1975)  An aircraft collision model. Management Science, 21(10): 1089-1101.

Ladany S. P. & Machol R. E., eds. (1976) Studies in Management Science and Systems, Volume 4: Management Science Applications to Sports. Elsevier Science: Amsterdam.

Machol R. E. (1976) Elementary Systems Mathematics: Linear Programming for Business and the Social Sciences. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Ladany S. P. & Machol R. E., eds. (1977) Studies in Management Science and Systems, Volume 5: Optimal Strategies in Sports. Elsevier Science: Amsterdam. 

Machol R. E. (1998) How OR can survive and prosper. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 49(4): 392-395.

Additional Resources

Wikiquote. Robert E. Machol. Accessed February 4, 2015. (link)