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Obituary: K. BRIAN HALEY 1933-2016 (OR Society President, 1982-83)

Friday, 3 Feb 2017 (revised date: Friday, 3 Feb 2017)
Gavin Blackett


K. BRIAN HALEY 1933-2016 (OR Society President, 1982-83)

By Graham Rand, Lancaster University

The death of Brian Haley on Christmas Day at the age of 83, soon after a diagnosis of liver cancer, brought to an end over 60 years of substantial involvement and dedicated service to the OR Society and to the worldwide O.R. community.  His involvement with the OR Society dates from 1954 when he became an Associate Member. In 1959 he founded, with Neil Jessop, the Midlands OR Society.  He was the first UK contributing editor to International Abstracts in Operations Research, Editor of the Journal of the Operational Research Society from 1971-1980 and President of the Society in 1982-1983, as well as being on Council and many committees.  Following his retirement from academic life, Brian continued to be involved in the Society’s affairs, most notably as Chair of the Publications Committee, a position he held for a period of 11 years. During his time as Chair, the journals in the Society’s portfolio flourished, and Brian oversaw the development of a variety of initiatives, including the birth of the Journal of Simulation.  Not surprisingly, the Society bestowed honours on him, first with the Companionship of Operational Research in 1996, and, in 2010, the Beale Medal. Only three other Presidents have received both these honours.  In recent years he regularly attended the Blackett lecture, and was very disappointed on the few such occasions he missed.

Brian was born on 17th November 1933 in Smethwick, near Birmingham where he spent nearly all his life.  He attended King Edward’s School, Five Ways, before starting at the University of Birmingham in 1950 to study mathematics.  On graduating in 1953, he became a research assistant in the University’s Department of Engineering Production, obtaining his doctorate in 1956, for a thesis on industrial applications of linear programming.  His subsequent work always involved O.R. applied to a wide variety of real problems.  As Brian's period as research assistant came towards a close in 1957 he was faced with the prospect of National Service. In a profile of Brian in the OR Society Newsletter in February 1981, John Hough reported the decision problem he faced: a choice between fighting the Mau Mau in Kenya or EOKA in Cyprus as an officer, or operating a calculating machine in Byfleet as a Sergeant (Clerical).  However, a third option emerged - the National Coal Board O.R. Group (called FIG – Field Investigation Group) not only offered an outlet for his O.R. ambitions but it was also one of the very few acceptable alternatives to the Army.  Not surprisingly he opted for FIG. In 1958 Birmingham University had established the UK's first MSc Course in O.R. in the Department of Engineering Production and it was this, in 1959, which attracted Brian back to his home city to become the UK's first designated lecturer in operational research.  In 1968, he became Professor of Operational Research, retiring in 1999.

At the first international conference held in Oxford, UK, in September 1957, his paper, jointly authored with John Stringer, on the application of linear programming to a large-scale transportation problem, followed one from George Dantzig.  Exalted company indeed!   This conference led to the creation of the International Federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) on 1st January 1959.   Later, Brian edited the proceedings of two IFORS’ conferences, held in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan (1975) and Toronto, Canada (1978).  He then became successively Vice-President (1983-85), Chairman of the Publications Committee and, from 1992-1994, President.  Brian took pride in having attended the first 14 IFORS conferences, usually accompanied by his wife Diana. At the fifteenth conference, held in Beijing, China (1999) Brian was unable to travel at the last minute through illness.  Brian did attend further IFORS conferences, with Diana, as was the case in 2008, when the conference was in South Africa.  Diana died in March last year and, no longer having to worry about caring for her, Brian had intended to attend the IFORS conference this year in Quebec, accompanied by his son, but sadly that plan was not able to be realised.   

He met Diana at Birmingham University, where she was a secretary and typed work for him.  They were married at St Germain’s Church, Birmingham on 2nd April 1960.   They had one son, Alan, and two granddaughters, Frances and Emma.   Brian was a keen sportsman, playing rugby, as a prop, at school and for Five Ways Old Boys 1st XV.  He sailed for 10 years at Barnt Green reservoir, played squash and badminton, and latterly archery and a game called pickleball!  He followed cricket closely, though he wouldn't buy Sky on principle, and supported Worcestershire, whilst Diana supported Warwickshire.   He was very involved in church life.  As treasurer of his local Church, he was able to exercise his O.R. talents. A time series analysis of weekly collections was developed to decide the optimum timing of special appeals for donations. For a time he was a deacon at Carters Lane Baptist Church and occasional lay preacher.  Another major activity for nearly 40 years was as a governor of Bromsgrove School, for whom he created an L.P. model to evaluate alternative fee-structures.

in his February 1981 profile, written when Brian ceased being Journal editor, John Hough said “Whilst we may be saddened at his departure from Editorship of the Journal we can certainly anticipate years of future service from him in one of the few ORS roles which he has yet to play, that of President-elect, and subsequently, President of the O.R. Society”.   As can be seen, John’s expectation was more than fulfilled.




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