George Bernard Dantzig (November 8, 1914 – May 13, 2005) was an American mathematician, and the Professor Emeritus of Transportation Sciences and Professor of Operations Research and of Computer Science at Stanford.
Dantzig is known for his development of the
simplex algorithm, an algorithm for
solving linear programming problems, and his work with
linear programming, some years after it
was initially invented by Soviet economist and mathematician
Leonid Kantorovich.
Biography
George Dantzig was born in Portland, Oregon, and with his middle
name "Bernard" named after the writer
George Bernard Shaw.
His father, Tobias Dantzig, was a Russian
mathematician and his mother the French linguist Anja
Ourisson. They had met during their study at Sorbonne
University in Paris, where
Tobias studied with Henri
Poincaré. They immigrated to the United States and settled in Portland, Oregon. Early 1920s
the family moved over Baltimore to Washington.
Anja Dantzig became a
linguist at the Library of Congress, Dantzig senior became a math tutor at the University of
Maryland, College Park, and George attended Powell Junior High School and
Central High School. At highschool he was already fascinated
by geometry, and this interest was further nurtured his father, by
challenging him with complex geometry problems.
George
Dantzig earned bachelor's degrees
in mathematics and physics from the University of
Maryland in 1936, his master's
degree in mathematics from the University of
Michigan in 1938. After a two-year period at the Bureau of
Labor Statistics, he enrolled in the doctoral program in
mathematics at the University of California,
Berkeley studying statistics under mathematician Jerzy Neyman. In 1939, he arrived late
to his statistics class. Seeing two problems written on the board,
he assumed they were a homework assignment and copied them down,
solved them and handed them in a few days later. Unbeknownst to
him, they were examples of (formerly) unproved statistical
theorems. Dantzig's story became the stuff of legend, and was the
inspiration for the 1997 movie
Good Will Hunting.
With the outbreak of World War II, George took a leave of absence
from the doctoral program at Berkeley to join the U.S. Air Force
Office of Statistical Control. In 1946, he returned to Berkeley to
complete the requirements of his program and received his
Ph.D. that year.
In 1952 Dantzig joined the mathematics division of the
RAND Corporation. By 1960 he became a
professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at UC
Berkeley, where he founded and directed the Operations Research
Center. In 1966 he joined the Stanford faculty as Professor of
Operations Research and of Computer Science. A year later, the
Program in Operations Research became a full-fledged department. In
1973 he founded the Systems Optimization Laboratory (SOL) there. On
a sabbatical leave that year, he headed the Methodology Group at
the
International
Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg,
Austria. Later he became the C. A.
Criley Professor of Transportation
Sciences at Stanford, and kept
going, well beyond his mandatory retirement in 1985.
He was a
member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of
Engineering, and the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences. And he was the recipient of many honors,
including the first John
von Neumann Theory Prize in 1974, the National Medal of Science in 1975,
an honorary doctorate from the
University of Maryland, College
Park in 1976. The
Mathematical Programming
Society honored Dantzig by creating the
George B. Dantzig Prize, bestowed every three
years since 1982 on one or two people who have made a significant
impact in the field of mathematical programming.
Dantzig died on May 13, 2005, in his home in Stanford, California,
of complications from
diabetes and
cardiovascular disease. He was 90
years old.
Work
Dantzig is "generally regarded as one of the three founders of
linear programming, along with
John von
Neumann and
Leonid
Kantorovich", according to Freund (1994), "through his research
in mathematical theory, computation, economic analysis, and
applications to industrial problems, he has contributed more than
any other researcher to the remarkable development of linear
programming".
Dantzig's seminal work allows the airline industry, for example, to
schedule crews and make fleet assignments. Based on his work tool
are developed "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".
Mathematical statistics
An event
in Dantzig's life became the origin of a famous urban legend in 1939 while he was a graduate
student at UC
Berkeley. Near
the beginning of a class for which Dantzig was late, professor
Jerzy Neyman wrote two examples of
famously unsolved
statistics problems on
the blackboard. When Dantzig arrived, he assumed that the two
problems were a homework assignment and wrote them down. According
to Dantzig, the problems "seemed to be a little harder than usual",
but a few days later he handed in completed solutions for the two
problems, still believing that they were an assignment that was
overdue.
Six weeks later, Dantzig received a visit from an excited professor
Neyman, eager to tell him that the homework problems he had solved
were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics. He had
prepared one of Dantzig's solutions for publication in a
mathematical journal. Years later another researcher,
Abraham Wald, was preparing to publish a paper
which arrived at a conclusion for the second problem, and included
Dantzig as its co-author when he learned of the earlier
solution.
This story began to spread, and was used as a motivational lesson
demonstrating the power of positive thinking. Over time Dantzig's
name was removed and facts were altered, but the basic story
persisted in the form of an urban legend, and as an introductory
scene in the movie
Good Will
Hunting.
Linear programming
In 1946, as mathematical adviser to the U.S. Air Force Comptroller,
he was challenged by his Pentagon colleagues to see what he could
do to mechanize the planning process, "to more rapidly compute a
time-staged deployment, training and logistical supply program." In
those pre-electronic computer days, mechanization meant using
analog devices or punch-card machines. "Program" at that time was a
military term that referred not to the instruction used by a
computer to solve problems, which were then called "codes," but
rather to plans or proposed schedules for training, logistical
supply, or deployment of combat units. The somewhat confusing name
"linear programming," Dantzig explained in the book, is based on
this military definition of "program."
In 1963, Dantzig’s Linear Programming and Extensions was published
by Princeton University Press. Rich in insight and coverage of
significant topics, the book quickly became “the bible” of linear
programming.
Publications
Books by George Dantzig:
- 1953. Notes on linear programming. Rand
Corporation.
- 1956. Linear inequalities and related systems. With
others. Edited by H.W. Kuhn and A.W. Tucker.
- 1959. Linear programming and extensions. Princeton
University Press.
- 1966. On the continuity of the minimum set of a continuous
function. With Jon H. Folkman and Norman Shapiro.
- 1968. Mathematics of the decision sciences. With
Arthur F. Veinott, Jr. Summer Seminar on Applied Mathematics 5th :
1967 : Stanford University.
- 1969. Lectures in differential equations. A. K. Aziz,
general editor. Contributors: George B. Dantzig and others.
- 1970. Natural gas transmission system optimization.
With others.
- 1973. Compact city; a plan for a liveable urban
environment. With Thomas L. Saaty.
- 1974. Studies in optimization. Edited with B.C.
Eaves.
- 1985. Mathematical programming : essays in honor of George
B. Dantzig. Edited by R.W. Cottle.
- 1997. Linear programming. With Mukund N. Thapa.
- 2003. Basic George B. Dantzig. Edited by
Richard W. Cottle.
Articles, a selection:
- 1940. "On the non-existence of tests of "Student's" hypothesis
having power functions independent of \sigma". In: Annals of
Mathematical Statistics, Volume 11, number 2, pp 186–192.
See also
Notes
External links