Thornton L. Page

August 13, 1913 – January 2, 1996

Brief Biography

The son of a Yale physics instructor and a retired nurse, Thornton Leigh Page was born in New Haven, Connecticut.  Growing up in an academic environment, Page attended public schools in the area and went on to receive a BS in physics from Yale in 1934. He developed an interest in astronomy and, upon receiving a Rhodes Scholarship, went on to study astrophysics at Oxford under Harry H. Plaskett. He graduated with a Doctorate of Philosophy in 1938 and accepted a position at the University of Chicago.

Page excelled as an undergraduate astrophysics instructor, demanding the best from his students. He was in favor of the United States entering the Second World War to help the Allies and joined the US Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington to work on counter measures for magnetic mines. There, he was introduced to operations research and eventually went on to join the Pacific Fleet headquarters at Pearl Harbor in 1942. Page served in a variety of locations across the Pacific front and was in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. He returned to Chicago in the fall of 1946.

In 1951, Page joined the Operations Research Office of the United States Army after realizing there was little chance for advancement at Chicago. His work was mostly classified as he spent a six-month tour of duty during the Korean War and two years at the U.S. Army Headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany as chief scientific advisor. Page returned to academia to become head of the Astronomy Department at Wesleyan University.

As the United States was entering the Space Race against the Soviet Union, Page was well positioned to merge his research interests with his military and operational background. He spent a number of academic years on leave at various observatories around the United States. After a stint at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, Page resigned from Wesleyan in 1971 and joined the Research Laboratory staff at NASA full time. He retired in 1976 but continued to teach courses at the nearby University of Houston until 1987.

Page played a significant role in the early stages of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), bringing his military operations research experience to the organization. He frequently wrote letters to the editor of ORSA’s journal, Operations Research, on military OR and the state of the discipline. In 1986, he was awarded the George E. Kimball Medal for dedicated service to the society and profession. 


Yale University, BS 1934

Oxford University, DPhil 1938


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas
  • Astronomy


Osterbrock D. E. (1996) Obituary: Thornron L. Page, 1913-1996. Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 28(4): 1461-1462. (link)

Awards and Honors

George E. Kimball Medal 1986

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Selected Publications

Page T. (1954) Letter to the editor - operations research as defined in this journal. Journal of the Operations Research Society of America, 2(1): 86-88. (link)

Page T. (1956) Letter to the editor - military operations research in NATO. Operations Research, 4(4): 482-484. (link)

Page T. (1957) The value of information in decision making. in Proceedings of the First International Conference on Operations Research, 306-314. Operations Research Society of America: Baltimore.

de Solla Price D. J. & Page T. (1961) Science since Babylon. American Journal of Physics, 29(12): 863-864.