Berwyn Hugh Patrick Rivett

April 2, 1923 – July 3, 2005

Brief Biography

B. H. P. (Pat) Rivett was a pioneer in operations research in the United Kingdom in both industry and academia.  He was an early and leading expositor of OR and served as president of the Operational Research Society, the "professional home of operational research researchers and analysts in the UK."   

He was born in Shropshire, England and moved to London with his family shortly thereafter.  He graduated in Mathematics (First class) from Kings College, London in 1943, and was drafted into a statistics research group within the Ministry of Supply.  After the war, he stayed on at the Ministry, rising to become a senior scientific officer.  Although he had no prior involvement with OR beyond statistics, in 1951 he became head of a Field Investigation Group (FIG) that was carrying out OR in the coal mining industry, which had been nationalized as the National Coal Board (NCB). 

Under Rivett's guidance, the FIG staff quickly grew to 60 and eventually became the largest OR group in the UK.  Maurice Kirby [Kirby 2003] believes that this was due in part to " Rivett's infectious enthusiasm for operational research which was complemented powerfully by his considerable skills in exposition" as well as by some "startling results" from early projects.  One such early FIG project analyzed a 1950 mining disaster in which 80 miners were killed by fire and fumes. The project determined that the high death toll was due in part to poor communications that slowed evacuation.  The team recommended moving three telephones and installing three more, which an early hand-calculated simulation using tables of random numbers determined would have halved the evacuation time. 

Rivett promoted a practical, hands-on approach to OR, and personally went down more than one hundred mines, operating on the same hours as the mine workers.  During two months touring the U.S. and a two-week training course taught by Russell Ackoff at Case Institute of Technology he learned about some more mathematical aspects of OR.  After a subsequent 3-4 months at Case he returned to the UK and organized Saturday morning study groups at the FIG. 

In 1960 he joined Arthur Andersen & Co. and established the company's U. K. office, where he was exposed to a wide variety of industries. However he was not keen on being a consultant, judged on his chargeable time rather than the quality of his work.   In 1963 he and three others who had worked for NCB established an OR group at Lancaster University, the last of seven new British Universities inaugurated in the 1960's.

At Lancaster, Rivett was the first established chair in OR at a British University and laid the foundation for what soon became a highly regarded department.  It was the first at Lancaster to establish a Masters Degree program in OR and to hold a short course on simulation for people from industry, commerce, and the public services.  The Masters program was modeled on Ackoff's approach at Case, with industrial practice by postgraduate students being of paramount importance. 

In 1967 Rivett left Lancaster to become Professor Operational Research at the University of Sussex, where his contacts with industry caused difficulties with the University and some students.  He retired from Sussex in 1988, and became an honorary professor at Lancaster.  In retirement he was involved in consultancy work with the National Health Service in Lancashire on delivery of health care for the frail elderly and the preventive management of coronary heart disease.  He visited the University of Mississippi twice, once for a full year and later for a semester.   

The Operational Research Society (ORS) was formed from the more informal OR Club in the UK in 1953 with Rivett as the first honorary secretary, serving in that capacity for about eight years.  He served a two year term as president.  In 1955 Ackoff proposed an international OR conference, which was held at Oxford in 1957, sponsored by the ORS, the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) and The Institute of the Management Sciences (TIMS).  Together with Sir Charles Goodeve, Rivett represented the U.K in setting up the conference.  This conference led to the creation of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS), an umbrella organization of what grew to be 50 national societies.  IFORS was controlled by a Board of Representatives with one member per society, with Rivett representing ORS.  He was later instrumental in the launching of the Operations Research Society of South Africa.  

Through his textbooks, addresses, television programs, and publications in non-OR/MS Journals, Rivett was a leading evangelist of OR.  He extolled the OR method with an emphasis on applications.  His scholarly works included a series of papers on multivariate scaling.  

Summarized from Rand 2011 and other sources   [incomplete]

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Berwyn Hugh Patrick Rivett
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