Seth Bonder

July 14, 1932 – October 29, 2011

Brief Biography

Seth Bonder Scholarship Photo

Born to two Russian immigrants in the South of Bronx, Seth Bonder possessed little interest in his early education and spent the majority of his free time playing sports. He enrolled in the City College of New York to play for the school’s championship-winning basketball team but dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Bonder earned a commission and spent five years as a pilot before realizing that a college education was necessary for the advancement of his career. He left the Air Force in 1956 and earned a bachelor’s of science in engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.

A friend from Bonder’s Air Force days who was enrolled in the John Hopkins OR PhD program was the first person to introduce him to operations research. In 1960, Bonder enrolled at Ohio State University’s OR graduate program and studied under Dan Howland, the Director of the System’s Research Group. On Howland’s suggestion, Bonder began work on a government sponsored research program at Fort Knox. It was during this time that he became interested in the classical Lanchester model of combat. Looking at various factors, Bonder realized that traditional assumptions were inaccurate and therefore devised alternative models. The insight that the attrition rates treated by Lanchester’s equations were not constants but were stochastic variables depending over time on various factors such as the crew and the threat led to his PhD dissertation.

Originally intent on pursuing an industry career, Bonder instead accepted a faculty position with the Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Michigan in 1965. He organized the Systems Research Laboratory (SRL) to continue the work he started at Ohio State. He collaborated closely with a student at SRL, Robert Farrell, and received financial support from the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Army. With Farrell, he developed the Bonder/IUA model (Independent Unit Action), the first hybrid analytic/simulation model. In the 1960s and 70s, SRL became a leading force in the development of analytic combat models.

Bonder left academia in 1972 to focus on Vector Research, Inc. (VRI), the company he had established three years prior. Under his leadership VRI became the leading independent military OR consultant company. Bonder worked on battalion level differential models and developed various vector models that were necessitated by post-Vietnam War alterations in the Department of Defense. VRI’s models served monumental roles in the late Cold War and Operation Desert Storm.

Bonder’s interests later shifted toward health care operations research. In the late 1990’s he supervised the analysis of health care delivery models. Bonder officially retired when he sold VRI to the Altarum Institute in 2001.

Bonder was an active member of the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) and the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). He served as ORSA president in 1969-1970 and as president of MORS in 1978. Bonder was recognized for his contributions to these institutions, receiving MORS’ Rist and Wanner Prizes and ORSA/INFORMS’ George E. Kimball Medal, Steinhardt Memorial Prize, and President’s Award.

Bonder passed away in October, 2011 but his legacy endures through INFORMS’ Seth Bonder Scholarship for Applied Operations Research in Health Services and the Seth Bonder Fellowships at the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University. These endowments seek to advance the application of next generation modeling in operations research. 

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Seth Bonder
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INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: Seth Bonder. Accessed January 26, 2015. (link)

INFORMS. Seth Bonder Scholarship for Applied Operations Research in Health Services: Who is Seth Bonder?. Accessed January 26, 2015. (link)


University of Maryland, B.S. 1960

The Ohio State University, PhD 1965


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Garrambone M. & Sheldon R. (2012) Military Operations Research Society (MORS) Oral History Project Interview of Dr. Seth Bonder, FS. Military Operations Research, 17(3): 5-49. (link)


INFORMS. Announcements: In Memory of Seth Bonder. Accessed January 26, 2015. (link)

Maddox D. & Pollock S. (2013) Seth Bonder, 1932-2001. Memorial Tributes, Volume 17. National Academies Press: Washington D.C. 

University of Michigan College of Industrial Engineering (2011) News and Events: In Fond Memory of Dr. Seth Bonder, November 1. Online. (link)


Seth Bonder Papers. Hagley Museum and Library. Wilmington, DE. 

Awards and Honors

David Rist Prize 1971

Vance R. Wanner Memorial Prize 1986

George E. Kimball Medal 1993

Award for Patriotic Civilian Service 1999

Jacinto Steinhardt Memorial Prize 1999

National Academy of Engineering Member 2000

INFORMS President's Award 2001

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Professional Service

Military Operations Research Society (MORS), President 1969-1970, Vice President 1968-1969

Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), President 1978

National Academy of Engineering's Industrial, Manufacturing, and Operational Systems Engineering Section, Chair 2000-2008

Selected Publications

Bonder S. (1965) A theory for weapon system analysis.  Proceedings of the US Army Operations Research Symposium, Volume 4. U.S. Army Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal: Alabama.

Bonder S. (1967) The Lanchester attrition-rate coefficient. Operations Research, 15(2): 221-232.

Bonder S. & Farrel R, eds. (1970) Development of Models for Defense Systems Planning. Systems Research Laboratory, Department of Industrial Engineering, The University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, MI.

Bonder S. & Honig J. (1971) An analytical model of grand combat design and application. Proceedings of the 27th Military Operations Research Symposium, 73-107. Military Operations Research Society: Alexandria, VA.

Bonder S. (1979) Changing the future of operations research. Operations Research, 27(2): 209-224.

Bonder S. (1981) Mathematical modeling of military conflict situations. Gass S. I., ed. in Operations Research: Mathematics and Models, 1-51. American Mathematical Society: Providence, RI.

Bonder S. (1994) Impact of the new global environment on national security planning – challenges to the OR Community. International Transactions of Operations Research, 1(1): 31-39.

Bonder S. & Zajtchuk R. (1997) Changing the paradigm for telemedicine development and evaluation: a prospective model-based approach. Socioeconomic Planning Science, 31(4): 257-280.

Bonder S. (2002) Army operations research - historical perspectives and lessons learned. Operations Research, 50(1): 25-34. (link)

Additional Resources

University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering. Alumni Activities and Awards: Bonder Fellowship Scholars. Accessed February 10, 2015. (link)