George E. Nicholson Jr.

June 21, 1918 – December 3, 1971

Brief Biography

The George E. Nicholson, Jr. Memorial Award was first awarded in 1976 by the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), and is now awarded by INFORMS. The only printed "official" statement appeared in OR/MS Today, Volume 1, Number 1 January, 1974, page 2.

In a subsequent issue a call for papers stated:

"This memorial has been established within the Operations Research Society of America in memory of Professor George E. Nicholson, Jr., who was a member of the Founding Committee of the Society. He also served as a Council Member, chaired a national meeting, and served on the Student Advisory Committee."

"Though Professor Nicholson was an academician, his interests ranged far beyond research. For nineteen years, he was Chairman of the Department of Statistics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in that capacity was deeply involved with the concerns of students. This memorial is a continuing expression of that significant part of his career. The funds have been contributed by friends of Professor Nicholson in his memory."

But, who was he? This is a short summary of George Nicholson's accomplishments:

George Nicholson, Jr. received his M.A, degree in mathematics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1941. He then was an instructor in mathematics at Georgia Tech until 1943 when he returned to the University of North Carolina and taught until 1944.
In March 1944, he was employed by the Applied Mathematics Group of Columbia University conducting classified mathematical research under contract to the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Following that he was an Operations Analyst with the XXI Bomber Command in the Pacific during World War II from 30 June 1944 to 20 September 1945. He received the Medal of Freedom because of his work for the Operations Analysis Section.
Following the war he returned to the University of North Carolina where he received his doctorate in Statistics and became chairman of the department in the early 50's until when he died in 1971.
In 1965 he was awarded the Defense Department's Exceptional Civilian Service Medal for his work a special consultant to the Air Force and as a U.S. advisor on NATO matters from the Under Secretary of the Air Force.
The citation stated:

"As chairman of the department of statistics at the University of North Carolina, and in cooperation with university officials, Professor Nicholson assumed responsibility for the organization, recruitment and training of select cadre of highly qualified scientist personnel. This group under the direction of Prof. Nicholson, became the first Air Force operations stand-by unit, and its services to the Air Force in time of both normalcy and crisis have been invaluable. Both as a scholar and scientist, he has contributed significantly to the furtherance of Air Force technical programs, to the enhancement of U.S. prestige in international scientific circles, and to the attainment of our national security objectives."

At the request of West Germany, he assisted the German Ministry of Defense in establishing an operations research organization. In addition, he helped the Japanese National Defense College establish a program of theoretical operations research.


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations


George E. Nicholson, Jr., 1918-1971. Ann. Math. Statist. 43 (1972), no. 5, 1381--1382. (link)