John Dunster Kettelle, Jr.
December 29, 1925 – May 31, 2012
John Dunster Kettelle, Jr., passed away on May 31, 2012, at his home in Arlington, Virginia, from prostate cancer. He was a mathematician with a long career in operations research and systems analysis. That work began in 1953 at Arthur D. Little Co. and continued with a series of consulting companies including Kettelle and Wagner Associates, the John D. Kettelle Corporation, and Ketron, Inc., which he founded and operated from 1970 to the 1990s. His companies developed mathematical models and computer software used in defense contracting projects as well as in other applications such as generating voting districts and county-wide school bus routing. Early in his career he originated the so-called lambda-sigma model for cumulative detection probability of submarines and discovered the parabolic envelope of possible target tracks from bearings-only observations. He was the author of an optimization algorithm known as “Kettelle’s Algorithm.” He authored numerous technical articles and edited 11 books published by the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). In his later years his work focused on the use of a computerized third party in dispute resolution and negotiations and on improving the efficiency of entire industries.
John’s father was a Congregational Minister, a graduate from Harvard Divinity School with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Harvard College. His mother was a Mathematician with degrees from Smith and Radcliffe Colleges. She taught Astronomy at Wheaton College and thereafter devoted herself to serving as a minister’s wife. John was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and had fond memories of his boyhood in Manchester, New Hampshire, and Barrington, Rhode Island. He was an Eagle Scout and loved the outdoors. He graduated from Barrington High School in Rhode Island (1942); attended Northfield Mount Herman School, Mount Herman, Massachusetts (1942); received an AB in Electronic Physics from Harvard College in 1945 (Class of 1946) and rowed on the varsity crew at Harvard for two years; and received an MS from Brown University (Class of 1948). After graduate school John was with the Woods Hole Research Institution in Massachusetts and worked aboard the oceanographic research sailing ship Atlantis. His advanced graduate work in Mathematics (Finite Groups and Cohomology) at Ohio State University was interrupted in 1951 when he was called to service in the Korean War.
John was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy from the V-12 program at Harvard University. He served in the Amphibious Forces at the end of World War II (Commanding Officer USS LSM 394). He served in the Korean War as a Submarine Officer (USS GUITARRO SS 363).
John was known for his quick wit, dry sense of humor and his zest for adventure. He enjoyed off-shore sailing, skiing, canoeing, and horseback riding, as well as travel, socializing, and spending time with family. John is survived by his wife of 32 years, Nancy Senti Kettelle of Arlington VA, his six children: Bruce Dunster Kettelle Trotwood OH, Martha Anne Sousa, Albuquerque NM, Rebecca Kettelle Pyne, McLean VA, Priscilla Kettelle Fosnocht, Malvern PA, John Dunster Kettelle III, Phoenixville PA, Jennifer Kettelle Blum, Redmond WA; 13 grandchildren; his sister Althea Greenwood of Gates NC, and her five daughters, and his former wife Joanne Lenz Kettelle of Malvern PA.
He was involved with a number of professional associations including: Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), The Institute of Management Science (TIMS), Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), Washington Institute for Operations Research Management Sciences (WINFORMS), and Military Operations Research Society (MORS). John Kettelle spearheaded and funded the D.C. Student Math Society, a volunteer organization which, for two years, hosted quarterly meetings attended by many dozens of D.C. math students and their teachers. For this work, John’s company, Ketron, was a 1980 winner of the Volunteer Activist Award of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
He was active in the Religious Society of Friends and a member of Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, Virginia. He was a former member of the Radnor Monthly Meeting in Ithan, Pennsylvania. A Memorial Service is planned for Sunday, June 10th, 2:00 pm, at Langley Hill Friends Meeting, 6410 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA.