Donald W. Hearn

September 28, 1939 – July 9, 2021

Brief Biography

Hearn Fellow Portrait

Donald W. Hearn was the founding editor of OPTIMA, the newsletter of the Mathematical Programming Society. Hearn received his bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina prior to pursuing graduate study at Johns Hopkins University. At Hopkins, Hearn developed an interest in mathematical programming when taking a course in optimization theory. After studying nonlinear programming under George Nemhauser and Jack Elzinga, Hearn spent a summer at IBM, where he was introduced to a “transmitter location problem” by Harlan Mills. The problem, which was essentially that of finding a circle of minimum radius to cover a point set in the plane, served as a launch pad for Hearn’s dissertation. He received his PhD in 1971, having developed a geometric algorithm for the problem with Elzinga.

In the mid-1970s, Harold Kuhn recruited Hearn to work on the Transportation Advanced Research Project at Mathematica in Princeton. There, Hearn developed a number of decomposition methods and worked on nonlinear networks. He and Mike Florian co-authored a survey chapter on the subject for the Handbooks in Operations Research and Management Sciences series in 1995. He was associate editor of the journals Computational Optimization and Applications, and Operations Research. He was author/co-author of more than 67 refereed articles, and co-editor of the books Large-Scale Optimization: State of the Art, Network Optimization, and Mathematical and Computational Methods for Congestion Charging. He was a co-editor of the Kluwer book series Applied Optimization.

Hearn was a charter member of the Mathematical Programming Society. Philip S. Wolfe, as chairman of MPS, worked with Michael Held of the executive committee to start a newsletter for the organization. Nemhauser suggested that Hearn be its first editor. OPTIMA became the resulting publication as Hearn played a major role in developing the newsletter’s staying power through successful fundraising.

From 1997 to 2007 he was Department Chair of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida. In 2004 he was elected a Fellow of The Institute of Operations Research and Management Science. Hearn retired from the University of Florida’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in 2007 and became Professor Emeritus. In addition to Florida he held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taught short courses at the University of Rome and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. Hearn’s more recent research focused on urban traffic assignments and water management. From 2007 until 2012, he worked as program director for Optimization and Discrete Mathematics at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. In addition he served as co-program manager and consultant for Service, Manufacturing and Operations Research at the National Science Foundation.

Other Biographies

University of Florida Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering. Donald W. Hearn, Professor Emeritus. Accessed May 15, 2015. (link)


University of North Carolina, BS 

Johns Hopkins University, MS

Johns Hopkins University, PhD 1971


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Karen Aardal (1997) Interview: Don Hearn. OPTIMA, 56: 5-6. (link)


Donald William Hearn 1939-2021.  Gainesville Sun, Gainesville FL  August 18 - 21 2021 (link)

In Memoriam Donald W. Hearn (1939-2021) OR MS Today September 1, 2021 (link

Selected Publications

Elzinga J. & Hearn D. W. (1972) Geometrical solutions for some minimax location problems. Transportation Science, 6(4): 379-394.

Elzinga J. & Hearn G. W. (1972) The minimum covering sphere problem. Management Science, 19(1): 96-104.

Hearn D. W. (1982) The gap function of a convex program. Operations Research Letters, 1(2): 67-71.

Hearn D. W. & Lawphongpancih S. (1984) Simplicial decomposition of the asymmetric traffic assignment problem. Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, 18(2): 123-133.

Hearn D. W., Lawphongpanich S., & Ventura J. A. (1987) Restricted simplicial decomposition: computation and extensions. Mathematical Programming Studies, 31(1): 99-118.

Florian M. & Hearn D. W. (1995) Network equilibrium models and algorithms. O'Ball, ed. in Handbooks in Operations Research and Management Science, Volume 8, 485-550. Elsevier: New York.

Hager W. W., Hearn D. W., & Pardalos P. M., eds. (1997) Lecture Notes in Economics and Mathematical Systems: Network Optimization.  Springer Berling Heidelberg: Berlin.

Gibbons L. E., Hearn D. W., Pardalos P. M., & Ramana M. V. (1997) Continuous characterizations of the maximum clique problem. Mathematics of Operations Research, 22(3): 754-768.

Hearn D. W. & Ramana M. V. (1998) Solving congestion toll pricing models. Marcotte P. & Nguyen S., eds. in Equilibrium and Advanced Transportation Modelling, 109-124. Springer: New York.

Hearn D. W. & Lawphongpanich S. (2004) An MPEC approach to second-best toll pricing. Mathematical Programming, 101(1): 33-55.