History of OR

Our 'ORigin story'

Ever wondered where operational research came from? The history of OR began in the world wars, when scientific research was used to improve military operations – with huge success. The most famous two examples are OR's impact on combating Germany's u-boats and Hitler's Luftwaffe. This animation sheds light on the early days of the discipline, when the stakes could not be higher with the survival of the United Kingdom on the line.

Please share this video as widely as possible so that more people are made aware of our proud heritage in which exceptional individuals faced terrible problems with courage and ingenuity – and in doing so gave birth to the discipline of operational research.

Patrick Blackett – pioneer of OR

Who was Patrick Blackett? Physicist, Nobel prizewinner and one-time president of the Royal Society, Patrick Blackett was one of the pioneers of operational research (OR) during the second world war, when he advocated for the employment of scientists to advise on matters of strategy and tactics to great effect.

Since the war, OR has spread into business, government, public services, education, defence and beyond, improving performance and helping people make evidence-based decisions. Blackett's fame does not match up to his extraordinary achievements, so this Draw My Life raises the profile of a remarkable individual whose legacy of operational research continues to shape our lives to this day.

Operational Research in War and Peace: The British Experience from the 1930s to 1970 (Hardcover)

by M.W. Kirby (Author)

The OR Society has sponsored the world's first official history of OR. This book traces the development of the discipline in the UK from its beginnings up until the mid 1980s. Written by Professor Maurice Kirby of Lancaster University, with research input by Rebecca Capey, the work is being written in two volumes: the first dealing with the period from the origins of OR in World War Two up to 1970; whilst the second volume covers the rest of the period. The first volume was published in August 2003 and is available from bookshops.

Book: Operational Research in War and Peace