Stanford University



 By Richard W. Cottle


INFORMS is an acronym signifying the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.  Accordingly, it is possible that the title “History of OR Excellence” of this section of the organization’s website might lead one to the mistaken impression that the Management Sciences lack a tradition of excellence. Those familiar with INFORMS understand that this is not intentional and that Operations Research (OR) and Management Science (MS) are frequently regarded as synonymous.  This observation should be kept in mind when reading the following account of the history of the Management Science & Engineering (MS&E) Department at Stanford University.


The MS&E Department was created by merging three small departments in two stages.

The heritage departments were Industrial Engineering (IE)  [in 1975 renamed Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (IE-EM)], Engineering-Economic Systems (EES), and Operations Research (OR).  The origins and developments of these three departments are taken up in this order in separate sections as are the mergers of EES and OR in 1996 forming EES-OR and then the latter department with IE-EM in 2000, thereby forming MS&E.  The heritage departments listed above all belonged to the School of Engineering.  It should be noted, however, that over time, similar activities could be found in other departments and other schools at Stanford.  These are discussed here, but only briefly.

The author’s work on this essay has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic; for the time being it should be considered a work in progress. The essay is intended to cover the history of the MS&E department and its ancestors up until approximately 2000.


The Roots

The Leland Stanford Junior University was founded in 1885 by Jane and Leland Stanford, Sr. Established in 1891, the university was named in memory of their son (and only child) who died in 1884 of typhoid fever at the age of 14.  Leland Stanford, Sr. had been Governor of California (1862—1864); in 1885 he was elected United States Senator and served in that capacity until his death in 1893. Leland Stanford, Sr. was a man of great wealth, based in large part on his involvement with the Central Pacific Railroad of which he was president from 1861 to 1893.

When the university opened it had three engineering departments: Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical, but it did not yet have a school of engineering.  Among the courses offered by the Civil Engineering Department at that time were:

  •  Economic Theory of Railroad Location
  •  Railroad Operation and Management

These two courses were originally taught by Charles David Marx.  In 1893, the Civil Engineering Department faculty added John Charles Lounsbury Fish.  In 1901 Fish began teaching from Arthur Mellon Wellington’s 1887 book The Economic Theory of the Location of Railways.  By the 1912—13 academic year, the course became Engineering Economy.  Fish’s pioneering book Engineering Economics: First Principles, published in 1915, was an influential text for many years, as were several of his other books.

From 1928 until his retirement in 1935, J.C.L. Fish was executive head of the Civil Engineering Department.  In 1930, Professor Fish invited Eugene Lodewick Grant to join the Civil Engineering Department faculty at Stanford.  This proved to be a brilliant decision.

Eugene Grant graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1917 with a B.S. degree in civil engineering.  During WWI he served in the Navy.  He worked briefly for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and in 1920 he joined the Civil Engineering Department faculty at Montana State College in Bozeman. Offered the opportunity to teach a course called “Engineering Economics,” he chose to do so, even though it was a totally unfamiliar subject to him.  Many years later, Grant reflected on this saying, “that decision affected the rest of my life.  While reading J.C.L. Fish’s book on engineering economics (op. cit.), I discovered how engineering decisions should be related to money.  The amazing thing to me was that in all my undergraduate days, nobody had ever mentioned to me that it made any difference how much anything cost.”[1]  Grant went about acquiring background knowledge in economics by taking summer courses at the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin.  While on a sabbatical leave in 1927—28, he earned a master’s degree in economics at Columbia University.  These studies made him a more qualified teacher of engineering economics.

At Stanford, Grant took over Fish’s course in this subject and in 1930 produced a book -- Principles of Engineering Economy -- that became a classic in the field.  Over a period of 60 years, it was published in 8 editions, the last 4 of which were co-authored by Grant.

Another of his celebrated publications, Statistical Quality Control (1945), is said to be the first textbook on the subject. 

Eugene Grant headed Stanford’s Civil Engineering Department from 1947 to 1956 and, just as importantly, the Committee on Industrial Engineering from 1945 to 1952.  Grant died in 1996 at the age of 99. His Memorial Resolution (presented to the Senate of the Academic Council) states that “he was responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the establishment of the departments of Industrial Engineering, Engineering-Economic Systems, and Operations Research in Stanford’s School of Engineering” (these being the components of today’s Management Science & Engineering Department).  We now turn to these three developments in turn.

Industrial Engineering

In 1945, Industrial Engineering (IE) began as a program within the Administration Division of the Civil Engineering (CE) Department.  At Stanford, the term  “academic program” refers to a degree-granting unit specializing in a particular field of study.

The program was chaired by Eugene Grant.  At its inception, the IE Program had a small faculty.  Those in addition to Grant, were Lawrance Frye Bell, Henry Phillip Goode, and Clark Henderson.  The program had a small set of undergraduate CE courses such as Statistics in Engineering, Accounting in Engineering, and Engineering Valuation.  The listed courses also included several offered by the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department: Forging and Welding; Machine Design; Industrial Processes; Production Engineering; Time and Motion Study. Such courses were typical for IE instruction of the day.

In 1951 W. (William) Grant Ireson, a Professor of Industrial Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, joined the faculty of the IE Program at Stanford.  That same year, the IE Program received its own budget.  By 1955, the program obtained its own “secretarial space” and became the Department of Industrial Engineering with Grant Ireson as Executive Head.[2] (It would take another year for the university’s course catalog, The Stanford Bulletin, to list industrial engineering as a department in the school of engineering.) Initially, the fledgling department’s location was unenviable.  In 1960, the Stanford Engineering News commented that “as one of the youngest departments in the School of Engineering, IE faculty, staff, and students feel that some significance can be attached to the fact that they have finally worked their way from the basement (of the Engineering Corner) up to ground level with a building of their own.”

Grant Ireson developed an international reputation for his publications in quality control, engineering economics, industrial development and his contributions to engineering education in developing countries.  Among his many honors were the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Award of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, the Eugene L. Grant Award of the American Society of Quality Control, and the Arthur M. Wellington Award of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers for his contributions to engineering economics.  For years of help in setting up the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Grant Ireson was recognized in 1978 with the Order of Civil Merit by Park Chung Hee, then the president of South Korea.

As early as 1955, the IE Department offered courses leading to the M.S. degree.  One such course was Introduction to Operations Research, taught by Assistant Professor Gerald J. Lieberman.  This might be the first such course at Stanford.  In the following year, courses leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. were given; an O.R. Seminar and two computer seminars were added to the course offerings. 

In 1956, Stanford obtained an IBM 650 computer. Soon thereafter, it became an important element of a graduate program in Data Processing and Scientific Computation offered jointly by Departments of Industrial Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics.       

The department’s concerns are revealed in the following excerpt from Ireson’s 1963 report to the university president J.E. Wallace Sterling.


“The goal is to maintain the breadth of interest among the Industrial Engineering faculty by appointing highly qualified men whose areas of research and teaching will build strength in the area of engineering economy, production, and systems.“


During the early 1960s the IE Department faculty included David V. Heebink, Robert V. Oakford, David A. Thompson, and future operations research luminaries Frederick S. Hillier, Gerald J. Lieberman, Harvey M. Wagner, and Arthur F. (“Pete”) Veinott, Jr.  The origins of the Operations Research (OR) Department and the Engineering-Economic Systems (EES) Department are discussed in later sections of this document.

The launching of the OR Department in 1967 led “temporarily” to a notable decrease in the number of tenure-line members of the IE Department.  Many of the courses formerly taught by those who left IE and joined the OR Department became cross-listed.  The need for rebuilding led to the establishment of “courtesy” and “consulting” appointments and the addition of junior faculty members, some of whom eventually rose through the ranks to become full professors.    At various times the department’s faculty included holders of acting appointments, usually at the assistant professor level.  

Grant Ireson held the position of executive head (chairman) of the Industrial Engineering Department until 1975 at which time James L. Adams, director of the Design Division of the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department, took over.  This transition marked the beginning of another significant new development in the IE Department: the addition of Engineering Management (EM) to the curriculum and the name of the department.  Adams chaired the IE Department from 1975 to 1977 and the IE-EM Department for one more year; throughout this period, he retained his professorship in the ME Department.  It was during Adams’s chairmanship that a small number of individuals were appointed as lecturers.  Still another approach was the naming of “affiliated faculty.” 

An important step in the broadening of the IE Department into the IE-EM Department was the addition of Henry E. “Hank” Riggs to the faculty.  A Stanford alumnus with a BS degree in IE (1957) and an MBA from the Harvard Business School (1960), Riggs served as a consulting professor for four years after which in 1974 he joined the IE Department as a full professor. By that time, he had also held positions at Silicon Valley companies: Ampex (1957—58), Stanford Research Institute (1960—63), Icore Industries (1963—70), the last three years as its president, and Measurex (1970—74) where he was Chief Financial Officer.  At Stanford he became the Thomas Ford Professor of Engineering Management.  Hank Riggs chaired the IE-EM Department from 1978 to 1983. Thereafter he went on to become Vice President for Development at Stanford but was also listed as a professor in the IE-EM Department. In 1988, he was named President of Harvey Mudd College and later founder of the Keck Graduate Institute.  

The next chair of IE-EM was Warren H. Hausman who served in that capacity from 1983 to 1992.  A Yale graduate, Hausman earned a PhD at MIT’s Sloan School of Management; he came to Stanford as a full professor in 1977 from the Graduate School of Management at the University of Rochester. Hausman is noted for his work in supply chain management, then a topic of strong interest in the OR world. He is a Fellow of INFORMS and several other professional organizations. In 1994, Warren Hausman was elected President of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) but did not serve in that capacity due to the merger of that society with The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) in 1995 by which INFORMS was created.   

Robert C. (Bob) Carlson (1939—2011) served one year (1987--88) as acting chair of IE-EM  while department chair Warren Hausman was on sabbatical leave and again for one year (1992--93).  Carlson earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell in 1962. He then joined the technical staff at Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J. where he was employed until 1970 at which time he became an assistant professor of IE at Stanford.  He obtained his master’s degree in operations research[3] at The Johns Hopkins University in 1963.  His Ph.D. in mathematical sciences, also from The Johns Hopkins University, was awarded in 1976.[4]

In teaching and research, Robert Carlson engaged in a broad range of topics of an applied OR nature.  These included capacity and production planning, new product development, manufacturing strategy, sustainable product design, development, and manufacturing.[5]  In addition, he was active in Stanford Executive Teaching and other Executive Teaching programs.  In an obituary on Carlson, department colleague Professor Margaret Brandeau was quoted as saying “Bob helped the Stanford Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management grow from a traditional industrial engineering department into a more broadly focused department that helped redefine the field.”

In 1993, James V. (Jim) Jucker (1936-2011) followed Carlson as chair of IE-EM for a period of five years.  He had already served ten years as associate chair of the department.  Jucker held three degrees in industrial engineering: B.S. (1959) from Pennsylvania State University, M.S. (1961) from Montana State University, and Ph.D. (1968) from Stanford University.  He joined the faculty of Stanford’s IE Department in 1972 after having taught at the University of Massachusetts, Pontificia Universidade Catolica in Rio de Janeiro, and the Harvard Business School. 

Jucker’s scholarly work touched on a broad range of topics many of which would definitely be classified as applied OR.  This was often done in collaboration with department colleagues such as Robert Carlson, James E. Hodder, and Robert Oakford.  As the memorial resolution presented to the Senate of the Academic Council at Stanford observed, “Jim was among the first to recognize the benefits of integrating the disciplines of industrial engineering and organizational behavior.  Subsequently, he was integrally involved in building an organizations group in Industrial Engineering-Engineering Management that evolved into today’s Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the Center for Work, Technology and Organization in Stanford’s Management Science & Engineering Department.”

The last chair of the IE-EM Department prior to its merger with EES-OR and the formation of MS&E was M. Elisabeth Paté-Cornell.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at Aix-Marseille University (1968) and her master’s and Engineering degrees at the Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble (1970, 1971).  She also holds degrees from two of MS&E’s heritage departments: M.S. in OR (1972) and Ph.D. in EES (1976).  After receiving her doctorate, Elisabeth Paté-Cornell became an assistant professor of civil engineering at MIT.  In 1982, she returned to Stanford as assistant professor of industrial engineering.  She was promoted to associate professor in 1985 and full professor in 1991.[6]   Although not the first female member of the IE-EM department, she was the first to attain the rank of full professor. 

Elisabeth’s primary expertise lies in engineering risk analysis and management.  She uses “Bayesian probability to process incomplete information.”  “Her research and that of her Engineering Risk Research Group (ERRG) have focused on the inclusion of technical and management factors in probabilistic risk analysis models with applications to the NASA shuttle tiles, offshore oil platforms and medical systems.” [7] 

The transformation of the IE-EM Department ushered in during the chairmanships of Adams and Riggs continued under the leadership of their successors in this role: Hausman, Carlson, Jucker, and Paté-Cornell.[8]  This transformation tended to emphasize supply-chain management, strategy and organization, behavioral science in the context of organizations, and applied mathematical and economic models to support health policy decisions.  Among the eminent IE-EM faculty members associated with these fields are Hau L. Lee, [9]  Kathleen Eisenhardt, Robert I. Sutton, Stephen Barley, Margaret Brandeau, and Pamela Hinds.  The department’s faculty roster was further augmented by the inclusion of Robert McGinn and Thomas Byers, who became Professors (Teaching).  Over time, the size and academic distribution of the IE-EM Department’s group of affiliated faculty grew from 5 to 9.  The cross-listing of courses from OR and other departments continued.

The range of research interests represented by the faculty added under the banner of IE-EM led to the creation of various centers, groups, and labs.  The ERRG mentioned above is one of these. It was founded by Elisabeth Paté-Cornell when she joined the faculty.  Others are the Center for Work, Technology and Organization (WTO), founded in 1996 by Stephen Barley and Robert Sutton, and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), founded in 1996 by Thomas Byers.

This essay describes the early history of OR/MS at Stanford, starting in 1885.  A more recent history, starting around 1967, by Hillier was published in ORMS Today in 2021. (Link).


Much of the material recorded here is based on earlier research assembled in The Building of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford, a PowerPoint presentation created for an event on October 15, 2010 marking the 10th anniversary of the MS&E Department and following---by ten days---the dedication of the new Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center.  Meant as a double-entendre, the presentation’s title hints at its two themes: the formation (building) of the three heritage departments and the places (buildings) where, over time, they were housed.  The aforementioned research involved significant use of the Stanford University Archives, Libraries, and News Service.  

One extensively used resource for the present work has been the annual Stanford University Bulletin, Courses and Degrees, which lists departments in several (but not all) schools of the university, their faculties, degree programs, and brief course descriptions.  Unfortunately, the Bulletin is usually composed before some of the relevant departmental details are settled, making them incomplete or incorrect.  For this reason, some of the information given in a particular annual issue of Courses and Degrees cannot be regarded as entirely accurate for the corresponding academic year.

[1] This quotation appears in the Memorial Resolution on Eugene L. Grant, but the actual source is not given there. 

[2] Eugene Grant retired in 1962, but was listed as an emeritus faculty member until his death in 1996.

[3] The department from which Carlson’s M.S. and PhD. were earned underwent the following evolution: Industrial Engineering curriculum (1946), Industrial Engineering within Mechanical Engineering Department (1947), Department of Operations Research & Industrial Engineering (1964), Department of Mathematical Sciences (1973), and Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics (2004).

[4] How it happened that Robert C. Carlson was hired as an assistant professor years before he obtained his Ph.D. is unclear. His appointment might have been made at the acting assistant level; most likely his experience at Bell Labs and his standing as a doctoral student justified the exception to prior practice.

[5] Obituary by Andrew Myers Stanford Report, September 26, 2011.  Also in San Francisco Chronicle September 27, 2011.

[6]  This information on dates and ranks is from Courses and Degrees.

[7]  From Wikipedia article on Elisabeth Pate-Cornell: Https://

[8] As elaborated later in this document, M. Elisabeth Paté-Cornell was appointed chair of the Management Science & Engineering Department, a position she held from January 2000 until 2011.

[9] Beginning in 1996, Hau Lee held a joint appointment with the Operations, Information and Technology faculty of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford.

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