Forum: Your go-to site for O.R. history

By Mark Eisner

If you have not visited the INFORMS O.R. History website in recent months, this is the time to check it out. The recent upgrade of the site has much new content that has been added since our last description in the October 2015 issue of OR/MS Today.

Over the last few years, the History and Traditions Committee of INFORMS has focused its efforts on developing the O.R. History website as a resource to anyone who has interest in understanding and preserving the history of our profession. We first introduced the site and its contents in the article entitled “A guided tour of the INFORMS history website,” cited above [1].

In its recent upgrade, the site displays a veritable treasure trove of resources of the history of O.R., organized into several sections that focus on people, institutions, O.R. methodologies, application areas and archives. In the process, the website has become easier to navigate, more attractive and more readable on your device of choice (computer screens, smartphones or tablets). In short, while the basic destinations are still all there, the site is looking better than ever.

The direct link to history’s new home is informs.org/Explore/History-of-O.R.-Excellence. Or go to informs.org, click on the menu at the upper right, then on Explore O.R. and Analytics, and then on In This Section. Either way, you will gain access to a long page titled “A History of O. R. Excellence” that offers an overview of the many facets of the website:

  • nearly 250 biographical profiles. (If your profile appears there and you have changes to propose, contact history@informs.org);
  • the Miser-Harris Presidential Portrait Gallery, covering presidents of ORSA, TIMS and INFORMS;
  • oral histories, including links and citations for nearly 100 interviews found elsewhere in addition to those in INFORMS format, which divide the interview into chapters and include searchable synchronized transcripts. These interviews offer many fascinating insights;
  • links and citations for personal memoirs by nearly 50 individuals;
  • links and citations for about 30 archived collections of personal papers in libraries in the United States and the United Kingdom. (Have you thought about the disposition of your personal papers?); and
  • pages on the history of academic and non-academic institutions that have played a role in the history of O.R., and pages on the history of O.R. application areas and methodologies. The institutions’ contributions are captured in short essays (1,500-2,000 words or more), examples of which appear in the pages for the University of Texas, Cornell and Chemical and Petroleum. Each page includes citations and links to documents; images and videos; and other materials of interest.

Much new content has been added in the last two years, especially in featuring key contributors to O.R. In particular, the number of video interviews in the INFORMS format in the oral history section is approaching 30. Recent additions include interviews with Egon Balas, Dick Larson, George Nemhauser, Bill Pierskalla and Stephen Pollack. New materials are continually being discovered or created and added to all segments of the site.

There is much more work to be done, and you can help: Whether you and your professional interests are directly represented on the site or you are just interested in the history of O.R., you can provide us with new leads or new materials to enrich the site. We welcome new additions to, or augmentations of, existing biographical profiles, memoirs or archival materials. Fleshing out the pages devoted to institutions, methodologies and applications areas is another area in which we need help. If you can help, or know of others who can join the effort, please contact history@informs.org.

Operations research is a relatively young profession and field of research, but our pioneering generation is all but gone, and we run the risk of losing valuable material, memories and documents that illuminate the chronicle of our field. The INFORMS History and Traditions Committee is committed to assembling its online website to present the historical trajectory of our field in an accessible and organized fashion. Visit the site and let us know what you think of it and how it can be enriched.

Mark Eisner (me35@cornell.edu) is chair of the INFORMS History and Traditions Committee. He has all but retired from Cornell’s School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, where he had served as senior lecturer and communications associate following a career at Exxon and in military O.R.

Reference
1.     https://www.informs.org/ORMS-Today/Public-Articles/October-Volume-42-Number-5/A-guided-tour-of-the-INFORMS-history-website