[Asis-l] Re: George Dantzig : father of linear programming, simplex algorithm

Cass Armstrong 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            
 programming problems.                               
 "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          
 math-world legend.                                  
 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.                      

Cassandra Armstrong
Associate Professor
Chair, Technical Services
University of La Verne
2040 Third St.
La Verne, CA

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