Harvey M. Wagner

November 20, 1931 – July 23, 2017

Brief Biography

Wagner Presidential Gallery Portrait

Harvey M. Wagner was an operations researcher who served as The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) and made valuable contributions to linear programming, inventory theory, and management consulting. Born in San Francisco, Wagner moved to Los Angeles at age ten. He resisted the temptation to study at the University of California at Los Angeles with his schoolmates and instead attended Stanford University. He was a prize-winning debater whose parents hoped that he would pursue law. After taking a probability course taught by Kenneth J. Arrow, Wagner developed a particular interest in economics and statistics. He developed a close student-mentor relationship with Arrow who supervised his thesis on Monte Carlo simulation and helped him get a job at the RAND Corporation.

Wagner spent the summer of 1953 at RAND, where he interned with Murray Geisler’s Logistics Department. While waiting on his security clearance, Wagner was received of George E. Kimball and Phillip Morse’s Methods of Operations Research (1951) from Alexander Mood, RAND’s mathematics head. That summer, Wagner briefly met George B. Dantzig, who later taught him the simplex method of linear programming. The following year, Wagner used linear programming to solve dynamic Leontief models. It was also at RAND where he was introduced to computer science via an IBM Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator.

By 1954, Wagner knew he wanted to earn a PhD in something other than statistics. He spent a year studying economics under Richard Stone at King's College, Cambridge. Wagner returned to RAND in 1955 and was encouraged by Arrow to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He spent two years at MIT but accepted a position at Stanford prior to receiving a degree. Wagner eventually earned a PhD in 1960, incorporating his continued RAND and Stanford research activities.

In 1960 Wagner joined the McKinsey & Company management firm as an OR consultant to their San Francisco office. He befriended David B. Hertz, his New York counterpart and editor of the Publications in Operations Research book series. At McKinsey, Wagner made multiple realizations about the implementation of OR models and the importance of transparency. His group’s work was recognized in 1984 when he and his colleagues were awarded the Franz Edelman Award.

Wagner left California to join the Department of Administrative Sciences at Yale University, joining his longtime friend Robert Fetter and the economist Herbert Scarf. At Yale he and several of his students made developments in inventory and production control, linear programming and bounded variables, and production scheduling. Wagner moved the University of North Carolina to be its business school's Dean.

Over the course of his career, Wagner was an accomplished author. His 1969 book, Principles of Operations Research with Applications to Management Decisions, was extraordinary well received by OR educators and was awarded the Lanchester Prize and Maynard Book of the Year Award by the Operations Research Society of America and the American Institute of Industrial Engineers, respectively. In 1996, he received the first annual Expository Writing Award from the Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). Wagner is an elected fellow of INFORMS, the American Statistical Association, and the Manufacturing and Service Operations Management Society. In 2004, he received the honor for having published one of the Ten Most Influential Papers in Management Science.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Harvey M. Wagner
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Wikipedia Entry for Harvey M. Wagner

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: Harvey M. Wagner. Accessed April 21, 2015. (link)

UNC Kenan-Flager Business School. Faculty & Research: Harvey M. Wagner. Accessed April 21, 2015. (link


Stanford University, BS 1953

Stanford University, MS 1954

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD 1960 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Awards and Honors

American Statistical Association Fellow 1963

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 1969

Institute of Industrial Engineers Maynard Book of the Year Award 1970

Franz Edelman Award 1984

Harold Lardner Prize 1988

INFORMS Expository Writing Award 1996

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Manufacturing and Service Operations Management Society Distinguished Fellow 2006

Professional Service

The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS), President 1973-1974

Selected Publications

Wagner H. M. (1957) A linear programming solution to dynamic Leontief type models. Management Science, 3(3): 234-254.

Wagner H. M. (1958) A Monte Carlo study of estimates of simultaneous linear structural equations. Econometrica, 26(1): 117-133.

Wagner H. M. (1960) A model of inventory in a complex organization. Verhulst M. & Churchman C. W., eds. in Management Sciences, Models and Techniques, Volume 1, 489-517. Pergamom: New York.

Wagner H. M. (1962) Statistical Management of Inventory System. Wiley & Sons: New York.

Wagner H. M. (1969) Principles of Operations Research with Applications to Managerial Decisions. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Wagner H. M. (1970) Principles of Management Science with Applications to Executive Decisions. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Wagner H. M. (1971) The ABC’s of OR. Operations Research, 19(6): 1259-1281.

Rubin D. & Wagner H. M. (1990) Shadow prices: tips and traps for managers and instructors. Interfaces, 20(4): 150-157.

Kathuria N., Vargas V., & Wagner H. M. (1993) The accuracy of linear programming production planning models. Sarin R., ed. in Perspectives in Operations Management: Essays in Honor of Elwood S. Buffa, 359-387. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston. 

Wagner H. M. (2002) And then there were none. Operations Research, 50(1): 217-226. (link