Dantzig, George B(ernard) 1914–2005

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Dantzig, George B(ernard) 1914–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 8, 1914, in Portland, OR; died of complications from heart disease and diabetes May 13, 2005, in Palo Alto (one source says Stanford), CA. Mathematician, educator, and author. Dantzig's inventions of linear programming and the "simplex method" have been credited with revolutionizing efficiency processes in industry and business planning. The son of an immigrant Latvian mathematician, he earned his B.S. from the University of Maryland in 1936 and his M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1938. After working as a mathematician for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics during the late 1930s, he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as a civilian employee. During World War II, he was put to work organizing the complex process of aircraft supply flows, handling the job so well that in 1944 he was awarded the Exceptional Civilian Service Medal. Returning to school, he completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley, gaining early fame for solving a previously unsolved statistical equation that was later presented as a published paper. After graduating, Dantzig returned to the U.S. Air Force, where he worked until 1952. It was while in the Air Force that he developed his equations for linear programming and the simplex method. In the former, all the possible variables involved in a given process are recorded and then equations are used to develop the most efficient way to complete a given task; the simplex method is an algorithm used to solve programming problems. Dantzig's equations were developed during the dawn of the computer age. Consequently, his ideas were quickly employed in computer programs and used by a wide variety of industries, ranging from transportation to manufacturing and even diet planning. After leaving his military job, Dantzig worked for the RAND Corporation, where he used his linear programming methods in the field of operations research. In 1960, he joined the Berkeley faculty as a professor and chair of operations research, and in 1966 he moved on to Stanford University. He was professor of computer science and operations research there until 1997, when he retired as professor emeritus. In additin to receiving the 1975 National Science Medal, some of his other honors include the 1971 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) award, the 1977 NAS award in applied mathematics and numerical analysis, the 1975 Von Neumann theory prize in operational research, the 1986 Silver medal from the Operational Research Society of Great Britain, the 1989 Coors American Ingenuity award. Dantzig was the author and coauthor of several books, including Linear Programming and Extensions (1963), and Compact City: A Plan for a Livable Urban Environment (1973). At the time of his death, he had been working on a science fiction novel tentatively titled "In His Own Image."



Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2005, p. B13.

New York Times, May 23, 2005, p. A17.

Washington Post, May 19, 2005, p. B6.

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Dantzig, George B(ernard) 1914–2005

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