Heiner Müller-Merbach (1936-2015)

Professor Heiner Müller-Merbach

Professor Heiner Müller-Merbach, an INFORMS Fellow, a former president of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) and a highly esteemed member of the global O.R. community, passed away on May 30 in Darmstadt, Germany. He was 78, a month short of his 79th birthday.

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Professor Müller-Merbach studied industrial and mechanical engineering at Techische Hochshule Darmstadt. He did his postdoctoral research at the University of California-Berkeley’s Operations Research Center and, in 1967, completed a research assistantship at the Institut fur Practische Mathematik (“Institute for Applied Mathematics”) in Germany.

Professor Müller-Merbach was a member of the faculty of the Universität Mainz from 1967 to 1971 and at TH Darmstadt from 1972 to 83. In 1983, he joined the faculty at the University of Kaiserlautern as a professor of computer science and operations research, a position he held until his retirement in 2004. In addition, Professor Müller-Merbach was a longtime member of the board of the Association of German Industrial Engineers (VWI) and editor of the journal, T&M (Technology and Management).

Professor Müller-Merbach published more than 400 articles and nearly a dozen books. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, he was a member of the German government’s “Technologiebeirat” and advised the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate in technological affairs.

“Operational research, managerial problems, the intractable integers and numbers in general – we were never short of subjects in discussions related to our main field,” recalls Jakob Krarup of the University of Copenhagen and a longtime friend and colleague of Professor Müller-Merbach. “But also a wide variety of other aspects of the humanities occupied Heiner’s mind. Thus, the visible result of his deep interest in philosophy was the appearance in 1991 of “Philosophie-Splitter für das Management.”

“Why ‘für das Management’ ”? I asked.

“Well,” Heiner replied, “this is meant to be an appetizer for potential buyers who normally associate my name with management. Thus, increased sales are hoped for.”

Helle Welling, a longtime secretary of IFORS, worked with Professor Müller-Merbach over many years on many IFORS initiatives. “When I think of our working relationship, words that come to mind are respect, engagement, involvement, dedication, thoughtfulness, IFORS family,” Welling remembers. “Often during [his] presidency, [he] called me asking, ‘Did I forget something?’ [His] thoughtfulness manifested itself by sending me Christmas and birthday presents and Christmas cards to my family. My son was so intrigued by the way [he] dealt with numbers in these cards. One Christmas present was a beautiful trivet. I look at that trivet every morning when I place my teapot on it – and am reminded of IFORS days.”

Sources: INFORMS and IFORS