Hugh J. Miser

May 23, 1917 – June 22, 1999

Brief Biography

Miser Presidential Gallery Photo

Hugh Jordan Miser was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas to Nellie (née Pyle) and Wilson Lee Miser. His father had a PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago, was on the mathematics faculty at Vanderbilt University, and published College Algebra (1928), a widely-used instructional textbook. The younger Miser studied at Vanderbilt and received his B.A. in 1938. Miser earned his master’s at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). As a graduate student he taught classes at IIT and Ohio State University. While working on his PhD, Miser served as the acting head of the mathematics department at nearby Lawrence College.

On the suggestion of an IIT colleague, Miser went to the Pentagon to employ mathematical skills as a civilian operations analyst. He worked with the 20th Air Force and later relocated to Guam in 1945. One of Miser’s earlier projects concerned the accuracy of bombing missions over Germany. In the process of solving this one specific problem, Miser developed a new scoring system that measured bombing accuracy. He worked closely with and was influenced by Pentagon statistician William J. Youden. It was during this time that Miser first explored what operations research and applied mathematics had to offer.  After returning to Ohio State to complete his PhD in 1946, Miser remained with the military and joined the operations analysis team in the U.S. Department of the Air Force (USAF).

For eleven years, Miser solved classified problems and made major strides in Air Force strategy and other related military areas. In 1959, he left the USAF for the Research Triangle Institute to become the director of the Operational Science Laboratory. Miser continued to take his talents around, working at the U.S. Navy’s Operations Evaluation Group (1960-1962), the Mitre Corporation (1962-1965), and the Travelers Research Center (1965-1968). He returned to academic life in 1969 and joined the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) faculty as a professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.

Miser played a major role in the establishment and growth of professional operations research institutions and journals. In 1952, he was among the founding members of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). He was the editor of the book review section of ORSA’s journal, Operations Research, before becoming editor-in-chief of the entire publication in 1968. During his six-year tenure, Miser adopted a bold preference for substance over style, publishing revolutionary and innovative papers. He held multiple positions with ORSA prior to becoming the organization’s president in 1962. In 1975, Miser was awarded the George E. Kimball Medal for his contribution to the society and the profession. 

Miser retired from UMass 1980 and joined the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)in Laxenberg, Austria. At IIASA, he befriended Edward Quade and began their three volume Handbook of Systems Analysis. Miser’s publications from the period reflect the broad philosophical views of OR that he developed over his long career, commenting on OR as a technology. His interest in the history of OR led to the creation of the Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery (named after him and Carl M. Harris), the official chronicle of all past ORSA, TIMS (The Institute of Management Sciences), and INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) presidents. 

Miser was awarded the Jacinto Steinhardt Memorial Award in 1999 for his work in the military application of operation’s research. He passed away the same year and was inducted into the International Federation of Operational Research Societies’ Hall of Fame post mortem in 2005.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Hugh J. Miser
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INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Portrait Gallery: Hugh J. Miser. Accessed January 24, 2014. (link)

Rothkopf MH (2005) IFORS' Operational Research Hall of Fame: Hugh Jordan Miser. International Transactions in Operations Research, 12: 259-262. (link)


Vanderbilt University, BA 1938

Illinois Institute of Technology, MS 1940

Ohio State University, PhD 1947 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Hugh Miser (1994) Interview, July 28. Audio Cassette. RAND History Project, National Air and Space Museum.


Tomlinson R. (1999) An appreciation of Hugh J. Miser. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 50: 1183.


Hugh J. Miser Papers (MC 551). MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. 

Awards and Honors

Arthur S. Flemming Award 1952

George E. Kimball Medal 1975

Harold Larnder Prize 1990

Jacinto Steinhardt Memorial Award 1999

Philip McCord Morse Lectureship Award 1999

International Federation of Operations Research Societies' Hall of Fame 2005

Professional Service

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), President 1962, Vice President 1961, & Secretary 1958-1961

Selected Publications

Andes P. & Miser H. J. (1945) Basic mathematics for engineers. Wiley: New York.

Miser H. J. (1967)Traffic Safety: Strategies for Research and Action. Travelers Research Center, Hartford, CT.

Miser H. J. (1974) The editor’s easy chair: what is operations research?. Operations Research, 22(4): 903-909.

Miser H. J. (1978)  The history, nature, and use of operations research. Elmagrhaby S. E. & Moder J. J., eds. in Handbook of Operations Research: Foundations and Fundamentals, 3-24. Van Nostrand Reinhold: New York.

Miser H. J. (1980) Operations Research and Systems Analysis. Science, 209(4452): 139-146.

Miser H. J. & Quade E. S. (1985) Handbook of Systems Analysis: Overview of Uses, Procedures, Applications, and Practice. Wiley: Chichester.

Miser H. J. & Quade E. S. (1988) Handbook of Systems Analysis: Craft Issues and Procedural Choices. Wiley: Chichester.

Miser H. J., Rothkopf M. H., Thomas C. J., & Wagner H. M.  (1989) The next decade in operations research: comments on the CONDOR report. Oper Res 37(4):664–667 

Miser H. J. (1991) Comments on OR as technology. Journal of the Operations Research Society, 42(5): 29-31.

Miser H. J. (1992) Craft in Operations Research. Operations Research, 40(4): 633-639.

Miser H. J. (1994) Handbook of Systems Analysis: Cases, Applications, and Practice. Wiley: Chichester.

Miser H. J. (1998) The Easy Chair: What Kinds of Papers Will Contribute to a Well-Rounded View of the Conditions and Craft of OR/MS Practice?. Interfaces, 28(6): 63-70.

Miser H. J. (2000) What OR.MS workers should know about the early formative years of their profession. Interfaces, 30(2): 99-111.