Richard W. Rothery

July 19, 1928 – March 7, 2004

Brief Biography

Richard W. Rothery was a Frederick W. Lanchester Prize recipient who was among the first practitioners of traffic science. Rothery received degrees from Wayne State University prior to earning a Doctorate of Science from the University of Brussels in Belgium. Rothery joined the staff at General Motors Research Laboratories where he was introduced to the burgeoning subject of transportation science by Robert Herman, the head of company’s basic science group.

Rothery became part of a group of traffic researchers that included fellow GM employees Denos Gazis, Elliott W. Montroll, Refrey B. Potts, Robert E. Chandler, and Herman. He was one of the first to participate in the early studies on car following problems in 1957. This group of six men wrote a trio of articles for Operations Research on the subject of traffic dynamics and traffic flow. The three papers were awarded the 1959 Frederick W. Lanchester Prize for best publication in operations research from that year. They were lauded for the representation of “a fruitful application of a rich body of mathematical theory persuasively supported by experimental and computational evidence.” Rothery’s contribution, (co-authored with Herman, Montroll, and Potts), “Traffic dynamics: analysis of stability in car following,” served as a follow up to the original article on the subject. That year’s award set a precedent for the prize selection Committee to encourage the publication of series of papers reporting to a single research agenda as it progresses.

Continuing his career at General Motors, Rothery eventually became the head of the lab’s Transportation Research Department. He served as the third editor of Transportation Science from 1978 to 1982. Under his leadership the journal maintained its base while broadening its scope to include the fields of transportation economics, travel behavior, air transportation, and traffic safety. Rothery continued to publish in the area of car following, remaining in close contact with his former GM colleagues even after they left for other institutions.

Rothery retired from GM in 1987 and relocated to Austin, Texas where he and Herman reunited. He spent the first few years teaching part time at the University of Texas and established himself a familiar face around the university’s transportation research center. He passed away in 2004 after an unfortunate accident during a vacation. 


Wayne State University, BS & MS

University of Brussels, DSc


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Find A Grave. Richard W. Rothery. Published March 11, 2014. Accessed June 10, 2015. (link)

Gazis D. C. (2004) In memoriam: Richard W. Rothery. Transportation Science, 38(3): 257. (link)

Awards and Honors

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 1959

Selected Publications

Herman R., Montroll E. W., Potts R. B., & Rothery R. W. (1959) Traffic dynamics: analysis of stability in car following. Operations Research, 7(1): 86-106.

Gazis D. C., Herman R., & Rothery R. W. (1961) Nonlinear follow-the-leader models of traffic flow. Operations Research, 9(4): 545-567.

Herman R. & Rothery R. W. (1965) Car following and steady-state flow. Almond E. J., ed. in Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on the Theory of Traffic Flow. OECD: Paris.

Darroch J. N. & Rothery R. W. (1990) Car following and spectral analysis. Traffic Flow and Transportation, 47-56. Transportation Research Board: Washington, DC.