The application of mathematical (quantitative) techniques to the scientific study and analysis of complex systems and optimization problems of organization and coordination of activities in business operations and decision making.
Historically the discipline emerged as the confluence of several different threads of scientific application. Charles Babbage conducted research into the cost of transportation and sorting of mail which were applied in the UK’s first postal system. To understand the best choice of railway gauge, he conducted studies into dynamical behavior of railway vehicles on a railway network. Military planners during World War 1 were concerned with the scientific planning and organization of logistics of supplies for troops (convoy theory and Lanchester’s laws). The field expanded with the Second World War conferring several problems for US and UK military planners resulting in the development (among other things) of linear and dynamic programming techniques, and other mathematical tools.
Since then, the field has found application in many areas in transportation, finance, logistics
Operations Research tends to be heavily focused on complex mathematical models to solve a specific problem as mentioned above. Operations Science provides first principle observations about the behavior of nature. Operations Research techniques can be used to test any of these observations.