INFORMS Mourns Death of O.R. Pioneer George B. Dantzig
17-May-2005 1:50 PM EDT
The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMSÂ®) mourns the death of George B. Dantzig, the inventor of the ground breaking Simplex Method for allocating resources, who died in Palo Alto on May 13 at age of 90 following a brief illness.
"George Dantzig stands as a tall founding pillar of Operations Research," said Richard C. Larson, President of INFORMS and a professor at MIT.
"His invention and reduction to practice of the Simplex Method of linear programming were huge steps in creating 'mathematical optimization' as one of the two or three most important domains of operations research. His many other contributions to mathematical modeling and optimization helped to lay the groundwork for many to follow — both in applications and theory. He will be remembered with respect and admiration by all of us."
In recognition of his work, President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 presented Dantzig the nation's highest science award, the National Medal of Science. He received numerous other awards, as well, including what is now the INFORMS John von Neumann Theory Prize.
Dantzig vision of modeling economic systems became the most widely used technique of its kind for the efficient allocation of resources in industry and government.
Before Dantzig's research, economists trying to "optimize" the way they assigned staff and other resources had only disappointing mathematical tools that fell short of successfully solving real-world problems.
Dantzig's contribution was the development in 1947 of what was called linear programming. His formulation of linear programs as mathematical models for efficient allocation of resources and his development of a unique algorithm " what he called the Simplex Method " to solve them was a seminal event in the development of mathematical programming as a scientific method for optimally managing resources.
When it awarded Dantzig an honorary doctorate in 1976, the University of Maryland issued a statement, writing "His development of linear programming in 1947, occurring almost simultaneously with the development of the first computers, led to an explosion of economic, environmental, and statistical applications. As an example, the iron and steel industry has used a Dantzig programming method to evaluate iron ores, explore the additional of coke ovens, and select products. The Federal Energy Administration is using his method to evaluate energy policy alternatives, and linear programming has also been used or suggested for use to control water and air pollution"¦"
His work led to the growth of operations research in the 1950s. Operations Research, known as the "science of better," is the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.
Dantzig contributed to the development of many other areas of operations research, including all major areas of mathematical programming, quadratic programming, complementary pivot theory, convex programming, stochastic programming, and game theory.
Like a fictional character in the film "Good Will Hunting," the young George Dantzig once solved a problem on a blackboard that had stumped veteran mathematicians.
As a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley in 1939, he arrived late in class one day and copied two problems from a blackboard. After struggling with what he thought was a difficult homework assignment, he submitted his work to the eminent statistician Jerzy Neyman. Six weeks later on a Sunday at 8 AM, Neyman excitedly awoke Dantzig to say he had written an introduction to Dantzig's paper. It turned out that Dantzig had found solutions to two famous, previously unsolved statistical problems.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to an INFORMS prize named in his honor: The George B. Dantzig Dissertation Award, INFORMS, 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 310, Hanover, MD 21076, phone: 1-(800) 4 INFORMS, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A high-resolution photo of the late George Dantzig is available online at http://www.informs.org/Press/GeorgeDantzig.jpg
A low-resolution photo of George Dantzig is available online at http://www.informs.org/Press/GeorgeDantzig1.jpg The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMSÂ®) is an international scientific society with 10,000 members, including Nobel Prize laureates, dedicated to applying scientific methods to help improve decision-making, management, and operations. Members of INFORMS work in business, government, and academia. They are represented in fields as diverse as airlines, health care, law enforcement, the military, financial engineering, and telecommunications. The INFORMS website is http://www.informs.org. More information about operations research is at http://www.scienceofbetter.org.