OR vis-à-vis Management in the 1950s: Background May 29, 2012Posted by Will Thomas in Commentary Track, Operations Research.
Tags: Alfred Chandler, Andrew Abbott, Christopher McKenna, John D. C. Little, John Magee, Philip Morse, Walter Friedman
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I have a new article out: William Thomas, “Operations Research vis-à-vis Management at Arthur D. Little and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s,” Business History Review 86 (2012): 99–122. Thanks to the journal’s liberal author’s rights, you can download your very own copy by clicking on the title. Here’s the abstact:
This article examines the establishment of the field of operations research (OR) at the Arthur D. Little consulting firm and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. OR advocates envisioned the field as a new kind of bureaucratic organ dedicated to general studies of business problems, staffed by trained scientists who could employ sophisticated methods if needed. The crux of their promotional strategy was to use their appreciation of general managerial practice to overcome the tensions to be expected from their claims to apply generic scientific methods to nonscientific activities. However, they discounted possible intellectual competition with established professions. This competition ultimately confined OR’s identity to a jurisdiction defined by novel mathematical techniques.
I’d like to try a little experiment with blogging as a complement to official publication. As all historians of science know, there is much more to science than the sum total of what is contained in published papers, and this, certainly, is no less true of the history of science literature itself. So, starting with this post, I’d like to use EWP to add some commentary on this article. I don’t think the article is especially worthy of such treatment, but I think it would be a better world if authors did this sort of thing for everything they wrote.