Gerald Nadler

March 12, 1924 – July 28, 2014

Brief Biography

Gerald Nadler was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Samuel and Minnie Nadler. Studying Industrial Engineering at Purdue University, Nadler spent the summer of 1948 working a food processing and canning factory in Wisconsin. He was given his first industrial assignment by the company’s president who informed him that logjam on the loading docks was “killing the company”. Nadler was tasked with producing of a one-page report on how to solve the problem. His aim was to shorten the delays, therefore preserving food quality and resulting in less waste. He employed the traditional problem solving methods of exhaustive statistical analysis, flowcharts, productivity, data capturing, and more. When his complicated recommendations were quickly turned down by his supervisor, Nadler returned to square one and learned the importance of building terse and creative solutions that could easily be understand and used by real industry personnel, not just theorists and academicians.

Nadler received a PhD in Industrial Engineering from Purdue in 1949. He focused his research on the observation of managers, engineers, and other personnel who he saw as the most creative in the workplace. Over time he discovered that most effective solution developers and problem solvers all but threw out the methodologies they had been taught at university in favor of their own independent and creative approaches. It was through the observation and study of real-world application that led Nadler to develop original ideas of strategic planning, management, problem-solving, and design. He was given an opportunity to practice this as Vice-President of Operations at Artcraft Manufacturing.

As an academic, Nadler brought these observations into the classroom. To him, it seemed useless to teach students the traditional methodologies when, in all likelihood, most would abandon shortly after entering the workplace. At Purdue, Washington University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Southern California, Nadler shared his knowledge of creative problem solving and systems integration with hundreds of students. Over the course of his career, he visited universities in the United Kingdom, Japan, Israel, and Belgium, investigating international processes of solution development. With operations researchers from across the world, Nadler thoroughly investigated how leading solution-creators determined the real purpose of a problem, which people to involve in solving it, and how to avoid the pitfalls of poor framework design. Much of this research came together in his 1989 book published with Shozo Hibino, Breakthrough Thinking.

Nadler was an elected fellow of several professional organizations including the Institute for Industrial Engineers, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). In 1986 he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering for “technical and educational leadership in industrial engineering, interdisciplinary systems planning and design methodologies”. He passed away at age ninety in 2014.

Other Biographies

Airaksinen T. & Gasparski W. W., eds. (2008) About the Authors: Gerald Nadler. Praxiology and the Philosophy of Technology, 302. Transaction Publications: Livingston, NJ.

USC Press Room. Find an Expert: Gerald Nadler. Accessed April 2, 2015. (link)


Purdue University, BS 1945

Purdue University, MS 1946

Purdue University, PhD 1949


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • Artcraft Manufacturing
  • Central Wisconsin Canneries

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Los Angeles Times (2014) Gerald Nadler Obituary. July 31. (link)

University of Wisconsin-Madison News Archive. Gerald Nadler, former ISyE professor, dies at 90. Published August 5, 2014. Accessed April 2, 2015. (link)

Awards and Honors

Institute for Industrial Engineers Fellow 1969

National Academy of Engineering Member 1986

American Society for Engineering Education Fellow 1991

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Selected Publications

Nadler G. (1955) Motion and Time Study. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Nadler G. (1963) Work Design. RD Irwin: Nashville, TN.

Nadler G. (1967) An investigation of Design Methodology. Management Science, 13(10): B-642 - B-655.

Nadler G. (1981) Planning and Design Approach. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Nadler G. (1982) Improving the effectiveness of management services. Interfaces, 12(4): 14-20.

Hibino S. & Nadler G. (1989) Breakthrough Thinking. Prima Lifestyles: Roseville, CA.

Additional Resources

Institute for Higher Performance Planners. News & Notes: Gerald Nadler Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Southern California. Accessed April 2, 2015. (link)