Alex E.S. Green

Dr. Alex Green, a notable operations analyst during World War II who created specialized slide rules to solve technical problems related to B-29 bombing raids, died March 12 at the age of 94.

A Gainesville, Fla., resident and longtime professor at the University of Florida, Dr. Green played a key role in one of the longest and most hazardous B-29 missions of WWII, a mission that found the “missing Japanese fleet,” including the battleship Yamato, which was subsequently sunk along with half the fleet by American carrier-based bombers.

Dr. Green related some of his wartime experiences in the paper, “Finding the Japanese Fleet in March 1945” (Interfaces, 1993, Vol. 23, No. 5, pp. 62-69). The paper appeared in a special section titled, “The History of OR,” and referenced three of Dr. Green’s 1945 wartime reports: “Analysis of Combat Losses,” “Combat performance of the RCT system of the B-29 aircraft” and “A device for computing the lengths of ships seen from the air.”

“The educational background he brought to bear in his work was physics and applied mathematics, both of which were absolutely essential to his war-time work,” says Richard L. Francis, professor emeritus, Industrial & Systems Engineering, University of Florida

In 1963, Dr. Green joined the University of Florida, where he spent the remainder of his 40-year academic career, first in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, then in Nuclear & Radiological Engineering, followed by 11 years as professor emeritus. 

In retirement as with his years on campus, Dr. Green was an industrious innovator. At 93 he stood at the Cade Museum Prize (designed to help move an innovative Florida-based product or service to market) award ceremony – a member of the Final Four – and won the People’s Choice Award for his “pyrolizer” machine that could create renewable energy and “bio-char” soil amendments at off-the-grid locations.

Dr. Green’s interest in renewable fuels arose from his work with the Air Force in WWII. Along with helping to find and identify Japanese war ships, his slide rules served as computers for flight engineers to calculate fuel consumption.

“When you flew a 3,000-mile mission, mostly over water, it was a life-and-death calculation, and I’ve really been concerned with fuels ever since,” Dr. Green said in a 2003 interview with The Sun.

According to The Sun, “Green’s research work focused on alternative fuels, fuel consumption and how to make the best use of fuels available domestically. His research led to the invention of a machine that burns biowaste such as wood, food and manure to produce liquid, gas and biochar energy sources that are deoxygenated to give them greater energy output. He patented the design in 1998 and formed Green Liquid and Gas Technologies. The latest model of his machine is being used by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to test biochar on plant soils.”

Norbert Richter, who succeeded Dr. Green as head of Green Liquid and Gas Technologies in 2003, told The Sun that Dr. Green “had some tremendous vision for energy and energy resources, decades before his time.”

Born in Brooklyn. N.Y., in 1919, Dr. Green earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the City College of New York, a master’s from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of Cincinnati. He reportedly received his first slide rule when he was 15.

Green is survived by his wife of 67 years, Freda; a son, Bruce; and three daughters, Deborah, Marcia and Tammy. ORMS

Sources: Gainesville Sun, University of Florida, Richard L. Frances