Saturday, February 27, 2010

Professor Alan J. Goldman, Operations Researcher Passes

Dr. Alan J. Goldman died a few days ago. He was well-known in operations research for his fundamental contributions and for his support of many researchers in this field, going back to his days at the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he worked for over twenty years. Afterwards, he was a Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences (now called the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he served on the faculty for over thirty years, including as an emeritus professor.

Dr. Goldman was elected into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1989.

The Johns Hopkins University newspaper published a very nice obituary on Professor Goldman. The article has an elegant way of summarizing the discipline of operations research as: the use of mathematics to improve decisions on the design and operation of complex systems.

My doctoral dissertation advisor at Brown University was Professor Stella Dafermos, who, interestingly, received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1968. She was the second female to receive a PhD in Operations Research in the world. I was invited, upon her untimely death at age 49, to write her obituary for the top journal, Operations Research, when she died in April 1990. Hard to believe that almost 20 years have passed since her death. As an aside, I might add that all of her four doctoral students have now achieved the rank of Full Professor, with Professor Steve McKelvey of St. Olaf College achieving this rank just this past week!

Interestingly, the first paper that Stella Dafermos published, which was with her dissertation advisor, Professor F. Tom Sparrow of Hopkins, entitled, "The Traffic Assignment Problem for a General Network," which appeared in the Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards, volume 73B, 1969, acknowledges Dr. Goldman. The footnote on the first page at the bottom of the paper reads: This work was undertaken under contract CST-1278 with the National Bureau of Standards. We wish to acknowledge the many constructive comments of Alan Goldman of the Applied Mathematics Division of the Bureau, and Dr. George Nemhauser of Johns Hopkins University. Nemhauser is very well-known in the operations research (OR) community (and is also a member of NAE); after Hopkins, Nemhauser spent time at Cornell, and then moved to Georgia Tech.

In another paper by Dafermos and Sparrow, entitled, "Optimal Resource Allocation and Toll Patterns in User-Optimised Transport Networks" published in the Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, volume 5, 1971, Goldman is again thanked. In a footnote, on the first page, the following appears: The authors thank the National Bureau of Standards and the Ford Foundation for their financial support. They acknowledge the many constructive suggestions of Dr. Alan Goldman ...