[Asis-l] Re: George Dantzig : father of linear programming, simplex algorithm
armstroc at ulv.edu
Fri Jun 3 13:01:20 EDT 2005
Copyright The Washington Post Company May 19, 2005
George B. Dantzig, 90, a mathematician who devised
a formula that revolutionized planning,
scheduling, network design and other complex
functions integral to modern-day business,
industry and government, died May 13 at his home
in Palo Alto, Calif. The cause of death, according
to his daughter, was complications from diabetes
and cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Dantzig was known as the father of linear
programming and as the inventor of the "simplex
method," an algorithm for solving linear
"He really created the field," said Irvin Lustig,
an operations research software consultant who was
Dr. Dantzig's student at Stanford University.
Dr. Dantzig's seminal work allows the airline
industry, for example, to schedule crews and make
fleet assignments. It's the tool that shipping
companies use to determine how many planes they
need and where their delivery trucks should be
deployed. The oil industry long has used linear
programming in refinery planning, as it determines
how much of its raw product should become
different grades of gasoline and how much should
be used for petroleum-based byproducts. It's used
in manufacturing, revenue management,
telecommunications, advertising, architecture,
circuit design and countless other areas.
"The virtually simultaneous development of linear
programming and computers led to an explosion of
applications, especially in the industrial
sector," Stanford University Professor Arthur F.
Veinott Jr. said in a statement. "For the first
time in history, managers were given a powerful
and practical method of formulating and comparing
extremely large numbers of interdependent
alternative courses of action to find one that was
George Bernard Dantzig was born in Portland, Ore.,
in 1914. His father, Tobias Dantzig, was a Russian
mathematician who had gone to Paris to study with
Henri Poincare, the renowned French mathematician
and philosopher of science. Tobias Dantzig married
Anja Ourisson, a student at the Sorbonne who also
was studying mathematics, and the couple
immigrated to the United States.
In the early 1920s, the Dantzig family moved to
Baltimore and then to Washington, where Anja
Dantzig became a linguist at the Library of
Congress and her husband taught mathematics at the
University of Maryland. Their son attended Powell
Junior High School and Central High School, where
he was fascinated by geometry. His father nurtured
his interest by challenging him with complex
geometry problems -- thousands of them.
Dr. Dantzig received his bachelor's degree in
mathematics and physics from the University of
Maryland in 1936 and his master's degree in
mathematics from the University of Michigan in
Although he enjoyed statistics, abstract
mathematics bored him. Abandoning academia, he
moved back to Washington in 1937 and took a job
with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 1939, he resumed his studies at the University
of California at Berkeley, studying statistics
under mathematician Jerzy Neyman. An incident
during his first year at Berkeley became a
As Dr. Dantzig recalled years later, he arrived
late for class one day and saw two problems on the
blackboard that he assumed were homework
assignments. He copied them down, took them home
and solved them after a few days. "The problems
seemed to be a little harder to do than usual," he
On a Sunday morning six weeks later, an excited
Neyman banged on his student's front door, eager
to tell him that the homework problems he had
solved were two of the most famous unsolved
problems in statistics.
"That was the first inkling I had that there was
anything special about them," Dr. Dantzig
From 1941 to 1946, he was the civilian head of the
combat analysis branch of the Air Force's
Headquarters Statistical Control. His task was to
find a way of managing "hundreds of thousands of
different kinds of material goods and perhaps
fifty thousand specialties of people," seemingly
intractable problems that spurred his search for a
mathematical model for what would become linear
He received his doctorate from Berkeley in 1946
and returned to Washington, where he became a
mathematical adviser at the Defense Department,
charged with mechanizing the planning process.
Based partly on his earlier work with aircraft
supply flow, he worked out the simplex algorithm.
In 1952, he became a research mathematician with
the Rand Corp. and began implementing linear
programming on computers. In 1960, he became a
professor at Berkeley and chairman of the
Operations Research Center, and in 1966, professor
of operations research and computer science at
Stanford University. He remained at Stanford until
his retirement in the mid-1990s.
Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Anne
Dantzig of Palo Alto; three children, David
Dantzig of Cleveland, Paul Dantzig of New York and
Jessica Klass of Berkeley; three grandchildren;
and two great-grandchildren.
His daughter noted that as an influential teacher
for many years, her father had two families -- his
own and the hundreds of students who studied and
worked with him throughout his long career.
He won numerous awards for his groundbreaking
work, including the National Medal of Science in
He was the author of the pioneering book "Linear
Programming and Extensions" (1963), updated in
1997 and 2003, and he co-authored "Compact City"
(1973). He had been working on a science fiction
novel in recent years, "In His Own Image," about a
plague that wipes out mankind.
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University of La Verne
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