George H. Shortley

March 3, 1910 – December 25, 1980

Brief Biography

14 Shortley

George Shortley was a devoted servant to the professional operations research community. Beyond a decades-long dedication to the Operations Research Society of American (ORSA), for which he served in multiple positions including 14th President of the society and editor-in-chief of its flagship journal Operations Research, Shortley led a decorated career as an operations researcher that culminated at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Shortley was born in Minneapolis, MN and stayed in his hometown through college, where he graduated from the University of Minnesota. He went on to receive his graduate degrees in mathematical physics from Princeton University. At 25, he joined the faculty at the Ohio State University following a physics fellowship at MIT and Harvard. At OSU, Shortley published his most-cited works on complex spectra and configurations in quantum physics. Save a year-long stint at the University of Paris, Shortley remained in Columbus until the United States joined the Second World War.

Wishing to contribute to the war effort, Shortley was recruited to the Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL) where he was first introduced to operations research. He was tasked with using physical simulation to enhance the operational effectiveness of magnetic influence mines. This led to the successful 1945 campaign that placed over 12,000 mines at Japanese ports and shipping lanes and damaging some 700 ships. Shortley left NOL as chief of the lab’s mechanics division in 1946 and received the Distinguished Civilian Service Award from James Forrestal, the US Secretary of the Navy. He returned to Ohio State where he met Dudley Williams, with whom he co-wrote the widely read Elements of Physics. Shortley’s text remained in publication for over three decades as multiple editions for various levels of audiences were written in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1949, he joined the operations research office (ORO) of Johns Hopkins University. As chief of the ORO’s home defense division, he primarily focused on designing air defense systems. Shortley left after six years and became the associate director of the Borg-Warner Corporation’s Chicago research center in 1955.

During this period, professional OR groups were being formed and an underlying desire for a regularly published operations research journal was transforming into a necessity. The Journal of the Operations Research Society of America was created in 1952 and, soon after, Shortley was brought in as acting editor. He became the editor-in-chief by 1954 and the journal’s title was shortened to “Operations Research”.  Shortley faced the uphill task of bringing together all the major authors and practitioners of OR. Up to this point, there was only one definitive text on the subject and a handful of papers scattered across multiple, unrelated publications. So much of OR had been driven by the stresses of war and certain methodologies were initially kept under strict secrecy. Shortley helped dispose of this protective attitude and successfully brought together a global collection of operations researchers, helping unite the field as a shared intellectual community. He made the journal a widely read and respected publication and oversaw the printed debates on the philosophy of OR as operations research separated itself into a unique branch of science. During his tenure, Shortley insisted multiple interests and methodologies be highlighted within the journal’s pages to establish an expanded and inclusive readership.

Shortley left Borg-Warner for Booz Allen Applied Research (BAARINC) in 1957 and became director of their headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. As director, he worked on satellite systems and helped bring BAARINC into the ORSA fold. Within five years, Booz Allen personnel under his leadership made up a significant portion of the Operations Research editorial and referee staff. This backing from a major industrial player gave the journal credibility in the professional community.

Shortley resigned as editor-in-chief in 1961 but stayed on the Committee of the Society until becoming ORSA Vice President in 1964. He served as President the following year and Past-President for four years after that. By his retirement as vice president and chief scientist at Booz Allen in 1970, Shortley has also finished his term as chair of the Frederick W. Lanchester Prize Committee. For his service to ORSA, he received the George E. Kimball Medal in 1974. Shortley spent the final years of his life enjoying his membership of various Bethesda country clubs and passed away at age 70 in 1980.

Other Biographies

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: George Shortley. Accessed April 30, 2019. (link)


University of Minnesota

Princeton University MA

Princeton University PhD


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Shortley G (1953) Letter from the Acting Editor. Journal of the Operations Research Society of America vol 1 no 4 pp 240-241. (link)

Shortley G (1961) A Letter of Resignation.  Operations Research vol 9 no 2 pp 272-274 (link

Shortley G (1967) Operations Research in Wartime Naval Mining. Operations Research vol 15 no 1 pp 1-10. (link)


George Shortley, 70, Dies Officer of Research Firm.  Washington Post Dec 28, 1980 (link

Awards and Honors

American Physical Society Fellow 1936

Distinguished Civilian Service Award 1946

George E. Kimball Medal 1974

Professional Service

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), Vice President 1964, President 1965

Operations Research, Editor-in-Chief 1955-1961

Selected Publications

Shortley G. H. & R. Weller (1938) The Numerical Solution of Laplace’s Equation. Journal of Applied Physics, 9: 334-348.

Flanders D. A. &  G. H. Shortley (1950) Numerical determination of fundamental modes. Journal of Applied Physics, 21: 1326-1332.

Shortley G. H. (1953) Use of Tschebyscheff-Polynomial Operators in the Numerical Solution of Boundary-Value Problems. Journal of Applied Physics, 24: 392=396.

Shortley G.H. & D. Williams (1961) Elements of Physics¸3rd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, N.J : Prentice-Hall.