Ward Whitt

January 29, 1942

Brief Biography

Ward Whitt is a recipient of the John von Neumann Theory Prize, the Frederick W. Lanchester Best Publication Prize, and the Saul Gass Expository Writing Award. He has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1996.

Whitt grew up in  Bozeman, Montana, where his parents were on Montana State University faculty, teaching industrial engineering and English. Whitt received his undergraduate education from Dartmouth College prior to earning a PhD in Operations Research from Cornell University in 1969 under the supervision of Donald L. Iglehart. He spent a year as an assistant professor at Stanford University prior to joining the faculty at Yale's Departments of Administrative Sciences and Statistics. In 1977, he left academia to join the Technical Staff of the Operations Research Department at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Whitt’s research dealt largely with approximations for queueing models and their applications to communication networks and manufacturing systems.  His 1989 paper, “Planning Queueing Simulations,” published in Management Science, was awarded the 1991 Outstanding Simulation Publication Award of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) College of Simulation in 1991. In 1996, Whitt was named a Technology Leader and AT&T Fellow of the IP Network Management and Performance Department. The following year, he, Joseph Abate, Gagan L. Choudhury, Kim K. Leung, and David M. Lucatoni were given an honorable mention by the Frederick W. Lanchester Prize committee for a sequence of fifteen papers on numerical techniques for transform inversion. The group was lauded for having undertaken a sustained effort to show that, contrary to widespread opinion, numerical inversion can be an effective tool to analyze the performance of stochastic systems.  

In 2001, Whitt received the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his contributions to queueing theory and applied stochastic modeling. Starting with a series of pioneering papers co-written with Iglehart, he was lauded for the creation of a lasting and vibrant framework for the analysis of queueing systems through asymptotic approximations. The prize committee attributed much of the outstanding contributions to stochastic OR of late twentieth century as having stemmed from Whitt’s groundbreaking work. He was also celebrated for his advancement in communication network performance analysis and traffic modeling. The following year, Whitt was named an inaugural Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

While at AT&T, Whitt published Stochastic Process Limits: An Introduction to Stochastic Process Limits and Their Applications to Queues, bringing together many significant of his career contributions. That 2002 book was awarded the 2003 Frederick W. Lanchester Prize for best publication in operations research. Whitt’s book was celebrated for not only incorporating his own historical contributions but for laying the foundation for “queueing theory of the future.”

In 2002 Whitt joined the faculty at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Columbia University. In 2007 he was appointed to the Wai T. Chang Chaired Professorship.  That year he also received the Engineering School Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award.  Almost all of his Columbia Ph.D. doctoral students have gone into academia, and almost all are now active in INFORMS, especially in the Applied Probability Society.  

For his entire corpus of works and skills as a master expositor, Whitt received the 2011 Saul Gass Expository Writing Award. The prize committee outlined the significance of his leading publications spanning four decades and three hundred twenty five articles. Whitt’s writing was celebrating for its cleverness, clarity, and beauty.

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for Ward Whitt

Columbia University. Ward Whitt: Biographical Sketch. Accessed June 3, 2015. (link)

Ward Whitt biography (2011)  Production and Operations Management. 20 (3): vii–viii. (link)


Dartmouth College, BA 1964

Cornell University, PhD 1969 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

  • Numerical Transform Inversion
Application Areas

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Columbia University. Ward Whitt: Resume. Published April 2015. Accessed June 3, 2015. (link)

Awards and Honors

Outstanding Simulation Publication Award 1991

National Academy of Engineering 1996

Harold Larnder Prize 2001

John von Neumann Theory Prize 2001

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 2003 (Winner) & 1997 (Honorable Mention) 

Saul Gass Expository Writing Award 2011

INFORMS MSOM Fellow Award 2012

Selected Publications

Iglehart D. L. & Whitt W. (1970) Multiple channel queues in heavy traffic. Advances in Applied Probability, 2(1): 150-177. 

Halfin S. & Whitt W. (1981) Heavy-traffic limits for queues with many exponential services. Operations Research, 29(3): 567-588.

Whitt W. (1983) The queueing network analyzer. Bell System Technical Journal, 62(9): 2776-2815.

Sriram, K. & Whitt W. (1986) Characterizing superposition arrival processes in packet multiplexers for voice and data. IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications, 4(6): 833-846.

Whitt W. (1989) Planning queueing simulations. Management Science, 35 (11): 1341-1366.

Abate J. & Whitt W. (1992) The Fourier-series method for inverting transforms of probability distributions. Queueing Systems, 10(1-2): 5-87.

Choudhury, G. L., Leung, K. K. & Whitt, W. (1995) Calculating normalization constants of closed queueing networks by numerically inverting their generating functions. Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery, 42: 935-970.

Jennings, O. B., Massey, W. A., Mandelbaum, A. & Whitt, W.  Server staffing to meet time-varying demand. Management Science, 42(10): 1383-1394.

Whitt W. (2002) Stochastic Process Limits: An Introduction to Stochastic-Process Limits and Their Applications to Queues. Springer-Verlag: New York. 

Liu Y. & Whitt W. (2011) A network of time-varying many-server fluid queues with customer abandonment. Operations Research, 59(4): 835-846.

Additional Resources

Ward Whitt home page