Charles D. Flagle

April 26, 1919 – September 4, 2016

Brief Biography

Charles D. Flagle was born in Towson, Maryland. After receiving his bachelors of engineering in 1940 from Johns Hopkins University, Flagle designed jet engine controls for the United States Army during the Second World War. He returned to Hopkins in the 1950s. As a graduate student, Flagle worked under Robert H. Roy, the Dean of the Johns Hopkins’ Department of Engineering. Flagle was first introduced to Hopkins’ Operations Research Office (ORO) while working with Roy.

Flagle completed his doctoral program in 1955 and began teaching courses in queuing theory and stochastic process as an assistant professor in operations research and industrial engineering. It was around this time that personnel in the ORO were beginning to work their way into the various Johns Hopkins Medical institutions. Visiting these facilities Flagle said, "everywhere I looked, there were stochastic processes." In 1956, Flagle was appointed to head the Operations Research division of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Director’s staff.

Flagle was invited to join the United States’ Public Health Service intramural research team in the late 50s to evaluate the progression of patient care. Working with the USPHS, Flagle learned that he was not the only one interested in bringing OR principles to health services. With the sponsorship of the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, Flagle held the first meeting on operations research and health care issues between professionals from the United States and the United Kingdom in 1960.

Flagle’s work in operations research and health services touched upon numerous subjects throughout his career. As Flagle notes in the Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science, “the techniques of operations research found their way into medical practice, not just in the […] support of clinical services”. His work in the field helped advance the application of OR in key medical areas like disease screening, diagnosis and therapy, and medical application. He additionally dealt with the allocation of hospital resources and personnel scheduling problems.

Flagle was a visiting scholar at the National Library of Medicine where single-handedly created a classification system for health services research. He received the George E. Kimball Award for distinguished service to the profession of operations research and the management sciences in 1984. He was recognized for his role in the establishment and growth of the ORSA Health Application Section. In 2002, he published an article concerning the origins of operation research in medicine and health sciences as seen through the lens of his career.

After retiring from teaching, Flagle maintained a close relationship with his alma mater. The Charles D. Flagle Fund provides awards to graduate students at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  In 2000, the Alumni Association at Hopkins awarded Flagle their Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Johns Hopkins University, B.Eng 1940

Johns Hopkins University, M.Eng 1954 

Johns Hopkins University, D.Eng 1955 (Mathematical Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Charles Flagle (1997) Interview by Eleanor Hart, October 21, 1997, Washington, DC. 

NOTE:  The video chapter transcripts below are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box.  Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: The Beginnings of Health Services Research
Chapter 2: The Concept of Progressive Patient Care
Chapter 3: Analyzing Community Health Needs
Chapter 4: Establishing the National Center for Health Services Research
Chapter 5: Computers Come to Medicine
Chapter 6: The Impact of Health Maintenance Organizations
Chapter 7: Estimating Resource Consumption as a Function of the Diagnosis
Chapter 8: Comparing Experiences with the United Kingdom
Chapter 9: Multi-Disciplinary Collaborations
Chapter 10: Participation of Economists
Chapter 11: Developing a Full-Text Medical Literature Database
Chapter 12: Back in the Library Again
Chapter 13: The National Library of Medicine Comes into Prominence
Chapter 14: The Interpolace of Investigator-Initiated Research and Directed Research

Charles D. Flagle (1991) Interview by Donald A.B. Lindberg, The Regional Medical Programs, 1965-76. Video. Videocassette. National Library of Medicine.

Charles D. Flagle (1998) Interview by Edward Berkowitz, National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR), National Library of Medicine, 16 October 1998.  Transcript.  National Library of Medicine NICHSR Oral History Collection (link)

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Flagle C. D. (2002) Some origins of operations research in the health services. Operations Research, 50(1): 52-60. (link)


Charles D. Flagle, Hopkins professor emeritus, dies

Awards and Honors

George E. Kimball Medal 1984

American College of Medical Information Fellow 1984

Johns Hopkins Distinguished Alumnus Award 2000

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Professional Service

Pavlovian Society, President 1980-1981 (link)

Selected Publications

Flagle C. D., Huggins W. H., & Roy R. H., eds. (1960) Operations Research and Systems Engineering. Johns Hopkins Pres: Baltimore, Maryland. 

Flagle C. D. (1960) The problem of organization for hospital inpatient care. Management Sciences: Models and Techniques, 2: 275-287.

Connor R. J., Flagle C. D., Hsieh R. K., Preston R. A., & Singer S. (1961). Effective use of nursing resources: a research report. Hospitals, 35(9): 30-3x3.

Flagle C. D. (1962) Operations Research in the Health Services.Operations Research, 10(5): 591-603.

Flagle C. D., Lockward H., Moss J.H., & Strachan S. (1963) The Progressive Care Hospital: Estimating Bed Needs. in Public Health Service Publications No. 930-C-2. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington D.C. 

Flagle C. D. (1970) The role of simulation in the health services. American Journal of Public Health and the Nations Health, 60(12): 2386-2394.

Flagle C. D. (1996) Medicine and Medical Practice. Gass S. I & Harris C. M., eds. in Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science, Volume I. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston.