Gerald L. Thompson

November 25, 1923 – November 9, 2009

Brief Biography

Thompson Fellow Portrait

Gerald L. Thompson was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University whose research led to the creation of mathematical and computational models for business, government, and industry. Born in Rolfe, Iowa, Thompson received his bachelors and masters of Science from Iowa State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively. During World War II, he served on the USS Harwood in the Pacific as a naval ensign. Thompson earned his PhD at the University of Michigan under the supervision of Robert M. Thrall, with whom he co-author a paper on the double description method in the Annals of Mathematical Statistics

Thompson’s first academic position was Dartmouth College where he explored finite mathematics. His 1957 book, co-authored with John G. Kemeny and J. Laurie Snell, is considered to be among the first wave of books to introduce mathematics to the study of business and management problems. Thompson spent a year at the Ohio Wesleyan University before joining the faculty of the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (GSIA) at the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

At the time, Carnegie was home to a bustling community of OR scholars that included Egon Balas, Abraham Charnes, William Cooper, and George Kozmetsky. As Thompson developed new modeling methods, his research began to include mathematical programming, combinatorial optimization, production planning, network programming, market games, optimal control theory, and scheduling. In 1978, he co-authored Mathematical Theory of Expanding and Contracting Economies with one of the fathers of game theory, New York University economist Oskar Morgenstern. The publication removed many restrictive assumptions of economic theory and enhanced the general understanding of economic reality.

In addition to Carnegie-Mellon, Thompson was affiliated with a number of other institutions including Kozmetsky’s IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin as a Senior Fellow. He served as a guest lecturer at the University of Kansas, the Institute for Advanced Study in Vienna, and the University of Paris. His research was sponsored by such government agencies as the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy.

GSIA has twice held conferences in Thompson’s honor, first on his seventieth birthday in 1993 and then again, ten years later, shortly after his retirement. The keynote address of the 2003 gathering, given by Cooper, outlined Thompson’s valuable contributions to operations research and was included in a festschrift published in his memory. His legacy can be seen in the success of his former students, including Fred Glover, Paul Kleindorfer, and David Shanno

In addition to leading a fulfilling career as a researcher and educator, Thompson spent numerous hours as a painter. He often combined his mathematical and aesthetical skills when producing works of art. 

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for Gerald L. Thompson


Iowa State University, BS 1944

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MS 1948

University of Michigan, PhD 1953 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2009) Obituary: Gerlad L. Thompson/CMU professor who incorporated math intro business problems. November 11. (link)

Awards and Honors

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2004

Selected Publications

Motzkin T. S., Raiffa H., Thompson G. L., & Thrall R. M. (1953) The double description method. Annals of Mathematical Studies, 2(28): 51-73.

Kemeny J. G., Morgenstern O., & Thompson G. L. (1956) A generalization of the von Neumann model of an expanding economy. Econometrica, 24(1): 115-135.

Kemeny J. G., Snell J. L., & Thompson G. L. (1957) Introduction to Finite Mathematics. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Mutch J. F., Thompson G. L., & Winters P. R. (1963) Industrial Scheduling. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Thompson G. L. (1968) Optimal maintenance policy and sale date of a machine. Management Science, 14(9): 543-550.

Morgenstern O. & Thompson G. L. (1976) Mathematical Theory of Expanding and Contracting Economies. Lexington Books: Lexington, MA. 

Teng J. T. & Thompson G. L. (1984) Optimal pricing and advertising policies for new product oligopoly models. Marketing Science, 3(2): 148-168.

Thompson G. L. & Thore S. (1992) Computational Economies: Economic Modeling with Optimization Software. Scientific Press: San Francisco, CA. 

Harche F. & Thompson G. L. (1994) The column subtraction algorithm: an exact method for solving weighted set covering, packing, and partitioning problems. Computers & OR, 21(6): 689-705.

Sethi S. P. & Thompson G. L. (2000) Optimal Control Theory: Applications to Management Science and Economics. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston.

Additional Resources

Aronson J. E., Cooper W. W., & Zionts S., eds. (2008) Gerlad L. Thompson: An Appriciation. The IC2 Management and Management Science Series. The University of Texas at Austin: Austin, TX.