Saul I. Gass

February 28, 1926 – March 17, 2013

Brief Biography

Gass Presidential Portrait Photo

Saul Irving Gass was a pivotal figure in linear programming and the history of operations research. Gass was born in Chelsea, MA to two Russian immigrants. As a high school student in Boston, he enjoyed mathematics and physics. Having taken special war-time courses on navigation and aeronautics, Gass wanted to serve in the US Air Army Corps (later USAF) or Navy but was excluded due to color blindness. He instead joined the Army and served on the European Front. Gass saw little combat action and spent a year in occupied West Germany.

After his military discharge in 1946, Gass married and resumed the collegiate studies he started at Northeastern University two years prior. Using G.I. Bill funding, he transferred to Boston University and earned both a B.S. and M.A. in 1949. Gass was offered a position with the USAF as a mathematician upon graduation. He worked originally on the Aberdeen Bombing Mission. This civilian group was tasked with the analysis of photographic plates and high-speed camera film of high altitude aircraft and bomb drops. He later went on to Project SCOOP (Scientific Computation of Optimal Programs), a research effort led by economist Marshall Wood and mathematician George Dantzig. It was Dantzig who first introduced Gass to linear programming and its computer-based application. Gass published his first text in 1958, five years before even starting a PhD.

Gass left Project SCOOP in 1955 to work as an Applied Science Representative at IBM to support salesmen who sold IBM computers for commercial and scientific application. He lift IBM for a period to spend time at the Corporation for Economic and Industrial Research (CEIR) and  provide companies with computer-based OR consultation services. Not wanting to relocate his family to Houston and accept a job with NASA, Gass returned to school and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley in 1963 to study under Dantzig.

Shortly after earning his PhD, Gass became a full-time member of the Science and Technology Task Force of President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement. The group, formed at the Institute for Defense Analysis and directed by Alfred Blumstein, was charged with bringing scientific thinking to criminal prosecution. Afterwards, Gass held a variety of consulting positions and taught at various universities in Washington D.C. before settling at the University of Maryland in 1975.

With Thomas Saaty, Gass developed an approach, called parametric programming, for handling linear programming problems with two, and then several, objective functions.  Later, he showed how parametric programming could avoid the problem of “degeneracy,” which otherwise can cause the Simplex Method to falter among non-optimal solutions. He and a student developed a method to speed up the so-called fictitious play approach to solving zero-sum two-person games.  Gass also devised an approach to a problem stemming from quality control for manufactured parts, namely fitting a circle to a given set of points in the plane. He additionally devised applications and developed new theory for Saaty’s Analytic Hierarchy Process for making comparisons in multilevel hierarchic decision structures.    

During his time at Maryland, Gass was a prolific writer and published a series of expository works. He served as the president of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) in 1976 and became more involved with the philosophy and history of OR. Gass was also becoming a public voice for the discipline. He built many international relationships in the OR community and often verbalized growing concerns of OR practitioners. Gass would go on to write and edit many books on the history and development of operations research including the subject’s first encyclopedia with Carl M. Harris in 1996.

Gass, credited in his later life as “The Chronicler of Operations Research”, was highly lauded for his work. For his early contributions to military OR, Gass was awarded the Steinhardt memorial prize in 1996. He later received the George E. Kimball Medal for his contribution to professional OR organizations. Gass was presented with the INFORMS Expository Writing Award. The award was later renamed in his honor.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Saul I. Gass
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Assad A. A. (2006) Four Score Years of Saul I. Gass: Portrait of an OR Professional. Perspectives in Operations Research, 36: 23-72.

IEEE Computer Society. Computer Pioneers: Saul I Gass. Accessed February 3, 2015. (link)

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Portrait Gallery: Saul Gass. Accessed February 3, 2015. (link)

Education

Boston University, BS 1949

Boston University, MA 1949

University of California, Berkeley, PhD 1965 (Mathematics Genealogy)

Affiliations

Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Methodologies
Application Areas

Oral Histories

Sheldon B. & Visco G. (2005) Military Operations Research Societal (MORS) Oral History Project Interview. Military Operations Research, 10(4): 39-62. (link)

Obituaries

Assad A. (2013) IN MEMORIUM: Saul Irving Gass (1926-2013). OR/MS Today, 40(2). (link)

INFORMS. Announcements: In Memory of Saul Gass, Pioneer in Operations Research. Accessed February 3, 2015. (link)

University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business News. Passings: Saul Gaul, Pioneer in Operations Research. Accessed February 3, 2015. (link)

Washington Post (2013) Obituaries: Saul I. Gass, U-Md. professor, April 8. (link)

Awards and Honors

George E. Kimball Medal 1991

Jacinto Steinhardt Memorial Prize 1996

Saul Gass Expository Writing Award 1997

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Professional Service

Omega Rho International Honor Society, President 1986-1988

Operations Research Society of America, President 1976-1977

American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Secretary 1962-1965

Association for Computing Machinery, Council Member 1960-1962

Selected Publications

Gass S. I. (1954) The application of linear programming techniques to air force problems. Paper AFAMA. Air Force Directorate of Management Analysis Service: USAF Headquarters.

Gass S. I. (1958) Linear Programming: Methods and Applications. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Gass S. I. & Sisson R., eds. (1974) A Guide to Models in Government Planning and Operations. Environmental Protection Agency: Washington, D.C.

Gass S. I. (1978) Computer Model Documentation. Proceedings of the 10th conference on Winter simulation, Volume 1, 281-287. IEEE Press, Wiley & Sons: New York.

Gass S. I. (1985) Decision Making, Models and Algorithms: A First Course. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Gass S. I. (1990) An Illustrated Guide to Linear Programming. Dover Publications: Mineola, New York.

Gass S. I. (1994) On ethics in operations research. Journal of the Operations Research Society, 45(8): 965-966.

Gass S. I. & Harris C. M., eds. (1996) Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston. 

Bodin L. & Gass S. I. (2003) On teaching the analytic hierarchy process. Computers & Operations Research, 30(10): 1487-1497.

Assad A. A. & Gass S. I. (2005) An Annotated Timeline of Operations Research: An Informal History. Kluwer Academic Publishers: New York. 

Assad A. A. & Gass S. I., eds. (2011) Profiles in Operations Research. Springer: New York.