Browse Prior Art Database

Comments, Queries, and Debate: Comments on the History of Linear Programming Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129604D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 6 page(s) / 30K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Saul I. Gass: AUTHOR [+2]


College of Business and Management University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 14% of the total text.

Page 1 of 6


Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Comments, Queries, and Debate: Comments on the History of Linear Programming

Saul I. Gass

College of Business and Management University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742

I agree with Schwartz (see previous letter in this issue) that Dantzig is the sole inventor of linear programming. My only complaint with Schwartz' arguments is that they are not strong enough. I have tried to make the case more forcefully by the discussion that follows.11

First, I must express my biases. Linear programming is a topic in mathematics (applied and theoretical) and is not a branch of economics and management, as Dorfman states. As an applied mathematical tool, it is a main weapon in the arsenal of the operations research analyst and has been used to solve an untold number of important problems in business, industry, and government. As a theoretical mathematical field, it has proven to be of great value in numerous mathematical areas and other disciplines (including economics). One need only check where the important theoretical and applied papers in linear programming have been and are being published. Certainly not in the economics journals. In fact, since the early involvement of economists with linear programming, there has been, with a few notable exceptions, little research by economists in this field. The burgeoning of linear programming is due to theoretical and applied efforts of operations researchers, mathematicians, numerical analysts, and computer scientists. Thus, I agree with Schwartz that linear programming is in the domain of mathematics.

To my reckoning, economists have never given proper recognition to the impact that the invention of linear programming has made on their field. (I again agree with Schwartz in using "invention" rather than Dorfman's word "discovery.") Certainly, you will find a few economists, like Dorfman, who know what it is all about and have an understanding of the importance of linear programming to economic theory. But it is a rare economist who knows this, and an even rarer economics text that imparts the important basic and economic ideas of linear programming. Further, it is a rare economics department that has a course in linear programming, or even a lecture or two on the subject in its basic courses. To my mind, this opinion was reinforced when the Nobel Prize Committee in 1975 shunned Dantzig's work and gave a joint prize ( justly deserved) to Kantorovich and Koopmans for their "contributions to the theory of optimum allocation of resources," that is, their important work based on linear programming and related concepts, as applied to economics. In a conversation with this writer, Koopmans expressed his dismay that Dantzig was not included in that year's Nobel Prize. I have also been told (indirectly) that Koopmans even contemplated...