Robert M. Thrall

Robert McDowell Thrall (1914–2006) was an American mathematician and a pioneer of operations research.[3]

Robert M. Thrall
Born(1914-09-23)September 23, 1914
DiedApril 11, 2006(2006-04-11) (aged 91)
Alma materIllinois College
University of Illinois
Scientific career
operations research
InstitutionsUniversity of Michigan
Rice University
ThesisMetabelian groups and trilinear forms[2]
Doctoral advisorHenry Roy Brahana
Doctoral studentsWalter Feit
Gerald L. Thompson


Thrall graduated in 1935 with BA from Illinois College and in 1937 with MA and PhD in mathematics from the University of Illinois. From 1937 to 1969 he was a professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In 1969 he became a professor in the newly founded department of Mathematical Sciences (i.e. applied mathematics) at Rice University. He chaired the department from 1969 to 1974. In 1977 he received a joint appointment in Rice's newly established Graduate School of Business, where he taught decision analysis to MBA Students. He retired from Rice University as professor emeritus in 1984.[3]

At the beginning of his career, Thrall's research was in group theory, ring theory, and representation theory.[3] For two years, from 1940 to 1942, he was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study.[4] During WW II he began to study operations research and development of mathematical models for military applications. From 1957 to 1961 he was the editor-in-chief of Management Science, as successor to C. West Churchman. From 1961 to 1965 Thrall was an associate editor for the journal. He was the 16th president of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) (now INFORMS) for a one-year term in 1969-1970. He was elected to the 2002 class of Fellows of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.[5] With William W. Cooper, Rajiv Banker, and other collaborators, he wrote a number of important papers on data envelopment analysis (DEA). Thrall was the author or co-author of over 100 articles in scholarly journals, as well as several books.[3]

He married Natalie Hunter in 1936. His wife died in 2004. Upon his death he was survived by a daughter, two sons, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.[1]

Selected publications


  • Thrall, Robert M. (1938). "A note on numbers of the form ". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 44 (6): 404–408. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1938-06768-7. ISSN 0002-9904.
  • Thrall, R. M. (1938). "Apolarity of trilinear forms and pencils of bilinear forms". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 44 (10): 678–684. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1938-06841-3. ISSN 0002-9904.
  • Thrall, Robert M. (1941). "A note on a theorem by Witt". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 47 (4): 303–309. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1941-07447-1. ISSN 0002-9904.
  • Thrall, R. M. (1948). "Some generalization of quasi-Frobenius algebras". Transactions of the American Mathematical Society. 64: 173. doi:10.1090/S0002-9947-1948-0026048-0.
  • Thrall, R. M. (1951). "On the projective structure of a modular lattice". Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. 2: 146. doi:10.1090/S0002-9939-1951-0041104-4.
  • Motzkin, T. S.; Raiffa, H.; Thompson, G. L.; Thrall, R. M. (1953). "The double description method". Contributions to the theory of games. Annals of Mathematics Studies. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press. pp. 51–73. MR 0060202.
  • Frame, J. S.; Robinson, G. de B.; Thrall, R. M. (1954). "The Hook Graphs of the Symmetric Group". Canadian Journal of Mathematics. 6: 316–324. doi:10.4153/CJM-1954-030-1. ISSN 0008-414X.
  • Samelson, Hans; Thrall, R. M.; Wesler, Oscar (1958). "A partition theorem for Euclidean $n$-space". Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. 9 (5): 805. doi:10.1090/S0002-9939-1958-0097025-0.
  • Seiford, Lawrence M.; Thrall, Robert M. (1990). "Recent developments in DEA". Journal of Econometrics. 46 (1–2): 7–38. doi:10.1016/0304-4076(90)90045-U. ISSN 0304-4076.
  • Banker, Rajiv D.; Thrall, R.M. (1992). "Estimation of returns to scale using data envelopment analysis". European Journal of Operational Research. 62 (1): 74–84. doi:10.1016/0377-2217(92)90178-C. ISSN 0377-2217.



  1. "Robert McDowell Thrall Ph.D." Houston Chronicle. 30 April 2006.
  2. Robert McDowell Thrall at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. "Robert M. Thrall". Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.
  4. "Robert M Thrall". Institute for Advanced Study.
  5. Fellows: Alphabetical List, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, retrieved 2019-10-09
  6. Schilling, O. F. G. (1945). "Review of Rings with minimum condition by Emil Artin, Cecil J. Nesbitt and Robert M. Thrall". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 51: 510–512. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1945-08398-0.
  7. Fiala, F. (1973). "Linear Optimization (W. Allen Spivey and Robert M. Thrall)". SIAM Review. 15 (4): 807–809. doi:10.1137/1015119. ISSN 0036-1445.
  8. Nering, Evar D. (1958). "Book Review: Vector spaces and matrices". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 64 (2): 73–77. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1958-10177-9. ISSN 0002-9904.
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