John Tomlin

June 1, 1942 – July 19, 2019

Brief Biography

Tomlin INFORMS Connect Portrait

John Tomlin was a software developer who made significant contributions to the development of optimization algorithms in mathematical programming. he was born in Taunton, England, and moved with his family to the area of Adelaide, Australia in the early 1950's.  He studied under Renfrey Burnard Potts at the University of Adelaide in Australia, where he received his PhD in 1968. His postgraduate research dealt with the application of mathematical programming models to traffic network problems under a Fellowship sponsored by the Australian Road Research Board. Tomlin went on to accept a postdoctoral fellowship position at Stanford University prior to joining Scicon, Ltd. in London.

As a senior analyst for Scicon, Tomlin developed software for numerous application areas of mathematical programming and created the Forrest-Tomlin method for modifying sparse triangular factors. In 1972, he returned to Stanford to accept a research associate positions at the university’s Systems Optimization Laboratory under George B. Dantzig. Tomlin spent five years there, continuing his software development work. In 1977, he relocated to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center and the Institute for Advanced Computation in Mountain View, California  where he was responsible for developing parallel and other advanced computing techniques for operations research methodologies.

After spending the majority of the 1980s developing optimization systems and software at Ketron, Inc., Tomlin joined the Research Division at IBM. There, he worked on a variety of projects including the long term development and application of optimization software and consulted with clients in the agricultural, chemical, utility, and government sectors. His most recent work prior to his 2005 departure emphasized OR applications to the internet and On-Demand Information Services. Tomlin’s internet work transferred over to Yahoo! Research where, as Principal Research Scientist, he developed optimization models for the scheduling of advertisements on the web.

Tomlin retired from Yahoo! in 2011 and soon after formed opTomax Solutions, a small consulting firm. He later worked with FICO in San Jose and taught a course on discrete mathematics at Stanford.

Tomlin was named a Distinguished Scientist of the Association of Computing Machinery in 2006 in honor of the invention and implementation of numerous mathematical programming algorithms and web graph analysis. The Computational Infrastructure for Operations Research (COIN-OR) project awarded him the 2007 COIN-OR INFORMS Cup for the advertising related models he developed with Yahoo! Research. Tomlin was named a Distinguished Scientist by the Association for Computing Machinery in 2006 and was elected a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences in 2009.  During the course of his career he filed many patents and authored numerous papers. 


University of Adelaide, PhD 1968 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • IBM
  • National Aeronautic and Space Association
  • opTomax Solutions
  • Scicon, Ltd.
  • US Postal Service
  • Yahoo! Research

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas
  • Agriculture

Awards and Honors

Association of Computing Machinery Distinguished Scientist 2006

Computational Infrastructure for Operations Research INFORMS Cup 2007

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2009

Selected Publications

Tomlin J. (1972) Modifying triangular factors of the basis in the simplex method. Rose D. J. & Wiilloughby R. A., eds. in Sparse Matrices and their Applications, 77-85. The IBM Research Symposia SeriesSpringer: New York.

Edwards J., McCurley K., & Tomlin J. (2001) An adaptive model for optimizing performance for an incremental web crawler. WWW '01, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on World Wide Web, 106-113. ACM: New York.

Fagin R., Kumar R., McCurley K. S., Novak J., Sivakumar D., Tomlin J., & Williamson D. O. (2003) Searching the workplace web.WWW '03, Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on World Wide Web, 366-375. ACM: New York.

Tomlin J. (2003) A new paradigm for ranking pages on the world wide web. WWW '03, Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on World Wide Web, 350-355. ACM: New York.

Eiron N., McCurley K. S., & Tomlin J. (2004) Ranking the web frontier. WWW '04, Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on World Wide Web. ACM: New York. 

Tomlin J. (2009) On scaling linear programming problems. In Balinski M. L. & Hellerman E., eds. Computational Practice in Mathematical Programming, 146-166. Springer: New York.