Egon Balas

Born: June 7, 1922

Brief Biography

Egon Blatt was born to a Hungarian Jewish family in Cluj, Romania, a former possession of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1922. During World War II, a period of fascist rule in Romania, he was employed by an ironworks, and in 1942 he joined the Iron and Steelworkers' Union and the underground Hungarian Communist Party, and organized strikes and distributed anti-war leaflets. In August 1944 he was imprisoned and tortured, but escaped by the end of the year. Most of his family was killed in the war. After the war, Romania came under Communist Party rule, and Blatt took the surname Balas to conceal his Jewish heritage. He rose quickly within the Romanian Communist Party and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in 1949 he received a degree in economics from Bolyai University and lectured in the subject part-time.

He had a difficult childhood but found joy in table tennis, in which he hid his participation in a number of tournaments, using the common Hungarian family name Balázs. He changed his legal surname to the Romanian spelling of the name (Balas) again so as to conceal his Jewish heritage after World War II. In 1942, Balas joined the Iron and Steelwork’s Union and the underground Hungarian Communist Party (Romania and Hungary at the time were allied with Fascist Germany). As an operator at a metal-working factory, he organized strikes and distributed anti-war leaflets. Balas was arrested at gunpoint in 1944 but escaped, after being tortured, in less than six months. Few of his extended family survived the war.

In 1952, amid shifting national politics, Balas was dismissed from his post and imprisoned for two years, during which time he was harshly interrogated. After his release in November 1954, he took up academic posts in economics, and became an expert in capitalist economic systems. In 1958 he published the book Contributions to a Marxist Critique of Keynesianism, which was initially well received, but soon came under ideological attack as contrary to Marxist doctrine. Within months he was again dismissed from his post and from the Communist Party, permanently alienating him from the ruling regime.

Following his dismissal, Balas discovered, and was heavily influenced by the 1958 book Linear Programming and Economic Analysis by Robert Dorfman, Paul Samuelson, and Robert Solow. He managed to obtain a post at the Design Institute for Forestry and the Timber Industry in Bucharest, where he collaborated with Ladislaw Ivănescu (later called Peter Hammer) on practical industrial applications of linear programming techniques. Confronted with a forest harvesting problem involving variables taking either the value 1 or 0 in nonlinear programs, he developed what he called the "additive algorithm," which later became better known as implicit numeration. The results were ultimately published in Operations Research in 1965 in the most frequently cited paper of its era.

By 1960 Balas had resolved to emigrate from Romania. His applications to leave the country were initially blocked, and caused him to lose his job in 1965. In 1966 he was finally successful in receiving permission to leave, took a position in Rome, and enrolled in PhD programs in economics and mathematics at the Universities of Brussels and Paris, respectively. In 1967 he received an immigration visa to the United States, and took a position in the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he has since remained.

In the past half century, Balas has continued to develop new methods in the field of integer programming, in particular disjunctive programming. Much of his theoretical work has derived from practical problems, particularly those in the steel industry of the Pittsburgh area. In 1995 he was awarded the INFORMS John von Neumann Theory Prize. He was elected to the inaugural class of INFORMS Fellows in 2002, awarded the EURO Gold Medal in 2001 by the Association of European Operational Research Societies. In 2006 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the IFORS Operational Research Hall of Fame.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Egon Balas
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Wikipedia Entry for Egon Balas

International Federation for Operational Research Societies Distinguished Lecture. Egon Balas, About the Awardee. Accessed April 7, 2015. (link

Rand G. K. (2006) IFORS' Operational Research Hall of Fame: Egon Balas. International Transactions in Operational Research, 13: 169-174. (link)

Education

Bolyai University, Diploma Licentiate 1949

University of Brussels, PhD 1967

University of Paris, PhD 1968  (Mathematics Genealogy

Affiliations

Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • CombineNet, Inc
  • Designing Institute for Forestry and the Timber Industry
  • International Computing Centre
  • LTV Steel
  • Sumitomo Metal Industries
  • United States Steel

Key Interests in OR/MS

Methodologies
Application Areas

Oral Histories

Egon Balas (2016) Interview by Irv Lustig, November 14, 2016, Nashville TN.

NOTE: The video chapter transcripts are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box. Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: Early Life Through World War II
Chapter 2: Economics in Communist Romania
Chapter 3: Back to Mathematics and Discovering Operations Research
Chapter 4: Attempts at Emigration from Romania
Chapter 5: Entering the West
Chapter 6: Visit to Stanford and Joining Carnegie Mellon
Chapter 7: Disjunctive Cuts Become Lift-and-Project Cuts
Chapter 8: Job Shop Scheduling
Chapter 9: Steel Rolling Mill Scheduling
Chapter 10: An Application in Bus Driver Scheduling
Chapter 11: Legacy

Memoirs and Autobiographies

Résumé

Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. Egon Balas Biographical Sketch. Published December 9, 2011. Accessed April 7, 2015. (link)

Memoirs

Balas E. (2000) Will to Freedom: A Perilous Journey Through Fascism and Communism. Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, NY. 

Awards and Honors

John von Neumann Theory Prize 1995

EURO Gold Medal 2001

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

IFORS' Distinguished Lecture 2006

IFORS' Operational Research Hall of Fame 2006

National Academy of Engineering Member 2006

Professional Service

The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) Publications Committee, Chairman 1974-1975

Selected Publications

Balas E. (1965) An additive algorithm for solving linear programs with zero-one variables. Operations Research, 13(4): 517-546.

Balas E. (1971) Intersection cuts—a new type of cutting planes for integer programming. Operations Research, 19(1): 19-39.

Balas E. & Padberg M. W. (1972) On the set-covering problem. Operations Research, 20(6): 1152-1161.

Balas E. (1974) Disjunctive Programming: Properties of the Convex Hull of Feasible Points. Management Science Research Report. Graduate School of Industrial Administration, Carnegie Mellon University: Pittsburgh, PA.

Balas E. (1979) Disjunctive programming. Annals of Discrete Mathematics, 5: 3-51.

Balas E. & Zemel E. (1980) An algorithm for large zero-one knapsack problems. Operations Research, 28(5): 1130-1154.

Balas E. (1985) Disjunctive programming and a hierarchy of relaxations for discrete optimization problems. SIAM Journal on Algebraic Discrete Methods, 6(3): 466-486.

Adams J., Balas E., & Zawack D. (1988) The shifting bottleneck procedure for job shop scheduling. Management Science, 34(3): 391-401.

Balas E. (1989) The prize collecting traveling salesman problem. Networks, 19(6): 621-636.

Balas E., Ceria S., & Cornuéjols G. (1993) A lift-and-project cutting plane algorithm for mixed 0–1 programs. Mathematical Programming, 58(1-3): 295-324.

Balas E., Ceria S., & Cornuéjols G. (1996) Mixed 0-1 Programming by Lift-and-Project in a Branch-and-Cut Framework. Management Science, 42(9): 1229-1246. 

Balas E. & Perregaard M. (2003) A precise correspondence between lift-and-project cuts, simple disjunctive cuts, and mixed integer Gomory cuts for 0-1 programming. Mathematical Programming, B(94): 221-245. 

Balas E., Fischetti M., & Zanette A. (2010) Lexicography and degeneracy: can a put cutting plane algorithm work?. Mathematical Programming, A(130): 153-176. 

Additional Resources

Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. Egon Balas Complete List of Publications. Published June 1, 2012. Accessed April 7, 2015. (link)