Foundations of operations research: From linear programming to data envelopment analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


After the 1950s, operations research (OR) moved from military applications of scientific methods to a distinct academic discipline, applying mainly mathematical models to complex systems in the public and private sectors. Linear programming (LP) with its simplex algorithm, developed by George Dantzig in 1949, is the first method that marked OR as a new academic discipline. The purpose of this article is to examine the evolution of OR through linear programming, its leading methodology, and some of its derivatives, concentrating on one of them—data envelopment analysis (DEA)—developed by Charnes, Cooper, and Rhodes in 1978. We focus on DEA and its derivatives, as this article is the most cited in a search performed using the main OR journals. Although we found LP to be mentioned much more than DEA in our search of Google Scholar and beyond, DEA is still well represented in the OR literature. Furthermore, based on insights gained from examining DEA vis-á-vis LP and the “secret” of their spread, we conclude with suggestions to further enhance OR's visibility, implementing ideas from OR founders and others over the years. Thus, future directions include combining hard and soft OR, involving interdisciplinary teams, consulting of OR academic researchers, and more.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069-1080
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2022


  • Data envelopment analysis
  • Linear programming
  • Operations research foundations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (all)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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