Eric Wolman

September 25, 1931

Brief Biography

Wolman Fellowship Portrait

Eric Wolman is an Affiliate Professor in Systems Engineering & Operations Research in the Volgenau School of Engineering at George Mason University. After earning an AB in Mathematics, he received his PhD in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University, with summer jobs in exploration seismography at Gulf Research & Development Corporation and in airborne fire-control at the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation. He then worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories for 30 years, mostly in management, where his own work centered on congestion theory in telecommunications and computer systems. On loan to Harvard, he designed and taught a course on Traffic & Queues. After retiring from Bell Labs, Eric served as Vice President for Community Research at the Michigan Cancer Foundation (now the Karmanos Cancer Institute), doing research on cancer-screening policy and quantitative modeling of the timing of patients’ visits to clinics, and managing research and service in home-care nursing and breast-cancer screening. In Detroit he later served as Faculty in the Department of Internal Medicine and the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, where he designed and taught a course on Cancer Control intended to give specialized biologists some perspective on the pros and cons of existing and proposed approaches to cancer prevention, screening, care, follow-up, and rehabilitation.
The focus of Dr. Wolman’s career at Bell Labs, in various assignments in Systems Engineering, Research, and Development, was the creation and maintenance of environments where creative people could be happy and productive. His Traffic Research & Network Engineering Department developed software tools for the approximate analysis of traffic networks, and promulgated the Bell System’s trunk-network provisioning tools for use by the Operating Telephone Companies and AT&T’s Long Lines Department. Eric wrote testimony for an FCC case rebutting its accusation that the Network was over-provisioned by ¾ of a billion dollars to give ‘too good service.’ He co-invented a simple method of traffic administration for unattended switching-systems. He led research in OR techniques and human-factors field-studies of new services, and initiated a project to improve coin-telephone instruction cards. He revived a research program in database management, and managed the development of UNIX® Operating System documentation and of computer aids to text criticism and the teaching of English. In addition to the immediate value of these efforts to the Bell System, the organizations under Eric’s leadership produced many influential publications.
Eric’s refereed papers appeared in the Journal of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Bell System Technical Journal, Operations Research, Medical Decision Making, and three biomedical journals, and he co-authored book-chapters on traffic engineering in the Bell System and on cancer markers. He served on the National Research Council’s Committee on Fire Research (residential, industrial, and forest fires), and then on the evaluation panels for Fire Programs and for their parent organizations at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST). Eric served on the editorial board of the SIAM Journal of Applied Mathematics, on the Council and Board of SIAM, and briefly as chair of that Board. He also served on the nominating committee of the ACM’s Special Interest Group on Management of Data.
Dr. Wolman has been active in ORSA and INFORMS since 1976. He served on the ORSA Council and on its Executive Committee, and on the Nominating Committee. He spoke at four of the Doctoral Colloquia, helping students to decide between academic and industrial careers. He served two terms on the council of the Health Applications Section, and later chaired its Bonder Scholarship committee. Eric chaired the ORSA and INFORMS Professional Recognition Committees for a decade, recruiting chairs for prize-committees, and resolving policy-issues arising within individual committees; and his Committee launched the Expository Writing Award and the Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice. Later he was Treasurer or co-Treasurer of Women in OR & MS for a decade, making it possible for WORMS officers to know their membership and budget situation in close to real time, and negotiated new by-laws for that Forum; he received the Moving Spirit Award for these efforts. He is a Fellow of INFORMS, and was awarded the Kimball Medal in 2013.

- updated July 2018 from the citation for the Kimball Medal 


Harvard University, AB 1953

Harvard University, AM 1954

Harvard University, PhD 1957


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Awards and Honors

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2006

Moving Spirit Award for Fora 2008

George E. Kimball Medal 2013

Professional Service

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Professional Recognition Committee, Chairman 1981-1982, 1992-2000  

Forum for Women in OR/MS, Co-Treasurer, 2000, 2002-11 

ORSA Council, 1979-82

SIAM, Trustee 1969-74, 1978-82

Health Applications Section, Council 1990-92, 1993-96

Selected Publications

Wolman E. (1972) The Camp‐On Problem for Multiple‐Address Traffic. Bell System Technical Journal, 51(6): 1363-1422.

Wolman E. (1994) Where Are the Non-visiting Patients? Medical Decision Making 14:345-356.

Wolman SR, Heppner GH, Wolman E. (1997) New Directions in Breast Cancer Research. FASEB J 11:535-543.

Dawson C. S., McCallum Jr. C. J., Murphy R. B., Wolman E. (2000) Operations Research at Bell Laboratories through the 1970s: Part I. Operations Research, 48(2): 205-215. (link)

Dawson C. S., McCallum Jr. C. J., Murphy R. B., Wolman E. (2000) Operations Research at Bell Laboratories through the 1970s: Part II. Operations Research, 48(3): 351-361. (link)

Dawson C. S., McCallum Jr. C. J., Murphy R. B., Wolman E. (2000) Operations Research at Bell Laboratories through the 1970s: Part III. Operations Research, 48(4): 517-526. (link)