The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first women receiving college degrees at UW-Madison. It took almost 50 years after that for the first black woman to earn a UW-Madison degree. I am currently on my sabbatical at RWTH Aachen, which was founded 150 years ago. I received a bar of chocolate to commemorate the occasion. It was delightful.
Our discipline of operations research, which became a discipline after the second World War, did not exist 150 years ago. My department of Industrial and Systems Engineering celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016.
I wonder when the first OR program was founded? Perhaps operations research was offered as a track in another degree such as math or engineering instead of being a standalone degree, as it generally is now. When was the first OR degree awarded and to whom? What about the woman to receive an OR degree? What about the first minority and minority woman to receive an OR degree? What were other important “firsts” for the discipline? If you know the answers, please post them in a comment or send me an email or a tweet.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of operations research, I recommend checking out the INFORMS YouTube channel on this subject.
- David Blackwell was the first person in OR elected to the National Academy of Sciences (more about him here)
- David Blackwell was also the first African American (overall, not just in OR) elected to the National Academy of Sciences
- The first women were elected as INFORMS Fellows in 2002, the inaugural year: Karla Hoffman, Judith Liebman, Elisabeth Pate-Cornell, and Margaret Wright
- First woman in OR elected to the National Academy of Engineering: Margaret Wright
- First woman in any discipline elected to the National Academy of Engineering: Lillian Gilbreth, industrial engineer (the first woman in the National Academy of Sciences was elected 40 years earlier)