Steven Vajda

August 20, 1901 – December 10, 1995

Brief Biography

István (later anglicized as Steven) Vajda was born in Budapest, Hungary before moving to Vienna at sixteen months old. He attended a selective school for intelligent students, excelling in mathematics and languages (he eventually learned to speak in eight different tongues). Vajda interacted with the great Austrian thinkers of the interwar period as a student at the Vienna Technical University and the University of Vienna. He spent his post-doctorate semester studying under renowned mathematician David Hilbert at the University of Göttingen. Vadja went on to work at a Viennese insurance company, before fleeing Austria in 1938 at the start of Nazi occupation.

Vajda arrived with his family in the United Kingdom that year but was forced to live on the Isle of Man for six months as an “enemy alien”. He joined the Gresham Insurance Company as an actuary after proving he was not a danger to the state. In 1944, his was asked by statistician Hillary Seal to join the British admiralty’s new statistical department devoted to maximizing resources in the Pacific theater. In this position, he began a long career as an operations researcher. Seal successfully campaigned for Vajda to become one of the first aliens to be granted British citizenship.

Vajda was made assistant director of OR in 1949 and was promoted to head of the Admiralty Research Laboratory’s Mathematics Group three years later. He left the Admiralty in 1965 and joined the University of Birmingham to become the United Kingdom’s second-ever OR professor. He taught for three years before accepting a fellowship at Sussex, remaining affiliated with the university until his death in 1995.

Of all his contributions to operations research, Vajda is best remembered for his work in mathematical programming. After reading a series of articles by George B. Dantzig in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Vajda developed a particular interest the duality concept in linear programming. In 1956, he published the first book to present a comprehensive account on the relationship between matrix games and linear programming. Two years later, he published Readings in Linear Programming (1958) for research and managerial personnel, describing a variety of linear programming applications.

Vajda was a frequent traveler to conferences and symposia across the globe. He was an avid proponent of linear programming, spreading its usage in Europe and Asia through such organizations as the Association of European Operational Research Societies.

It is not clear what got Vajda interested in the field of manpower planning. His interest stemmed from an interesting OR problem that dated back to the Second World War and dealt with the number and skills of personnel that could best match the operational requirements of an enterprise. With Seal and the Admiralty, Vajda first studied the mathematics of particular populations. At Sussex, he narrowed his focus on the relationship between national populations and manpower capacity. His research culminated in the 1978 book, Mathematics of Manpower Planning.

Vajda was a member of the Institute of Actuaries and a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. The British Operational Research Society (ORS) organized a special meeting in 1995 to honor his contributions to OR. At the gathering’s end, Vajda was presented with the distinction of Companion of OR, an annual award given by ORS for sustained support and encouragement for the development of operational research. 

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Steven Vajda
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Wikipedia Entry for Steven Vajda

University of St. Andrews School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences. Vajda Biography. Accessed April 1, 2015. (link)


Vienna Technical University, BS 1922

University of Vienna, PhD 1925

University of Gottingen 


Academic Affiliations
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Göttingen 
  • University of Sussex
  • University of Vienna 
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • Admiralty Research Laboratory
  • Gresham Insurance Company
  • Royal Naval Scientific Service
  • Phönix Insurance Comany

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Bather J. (1995) An interview with Steven Vajda. OR Newsletter, January, 25-29.


Krarup J. (1996) In memoriam Steven Vajda, 1901-1995. European Journal of Operational Research, 92(2): 437-439.

Krarup J. (1997) In memoriam Steven Vajda, 1901-1995. Revue Francaise D'Automatique, D'Informatique et de recherche operationnelle, 31(1): 1-5. (link)

The Independent (1996) Obituaries: Stefan Vajda. January 1. (link)

Awards and Honors

Operational Research Society Companion of OR 1995

Institute of Actuaries Member

Royal Statistical Society Fellow

Selected Publications

Vajda S. (1947) The stratified semi-stationary population. Biometrika, 34(3/4): 243-254.

Vajda S. (1956) Theory of Games and Linear Programming. Methuen: London.

Vajda S. (1958) Readings in Linear Programming. Pitman: London.

Vajda S. (1960) An Introduction to Linear Programming and the Theory of Games. Methuen: London.

Vajda S. (1961) Mathematical Programming. Addison-Wesley: New York.

Vajda S. (1972) Probabilistic Programming. Academic Press: Boston.

Vajda S. (1974) Theory of Linear and Nonlinear Programming. Griffen Press: London.

Vajda S. (1978) Mathematics of Manpower Planning. Wiley: Chichester, UK.

Vajda S. (1992) Mathematical Games and How to Play Them. Dover Books: Mineola, NY.

Conolly B.& Vajda S. (1995) A Mathematical Kaleidoscope: Applications in Industry, Business and Science. Horwood Publishing: Chichester, UK.