The Dantzig Library

By Jessica Dantzig Klass

Sept. 23, 1968
Dear George,
I am in your office going through your library.
Having a pleasant time.
Let me know when you find this note.

I laughed when I found this note from Andrew Vazsonyi in the book “Scientific Programming in Business and Industry” in my father’s library. George, of course, was my father, George B. Dantzig, who was also known as the “Father of Linear Programming.” He sired both of us in the late 1940s when he invented the Simplex Method.

Andy was enjoying himself in my father’s office in the Operations Research Department at Stanford University, where the walls were lined with large bookcases housing most of my dad’s math books

Even though I am not a mathematician, I quite share Andy’s pleasure with my dad’s library. And unlike my mother and my paternal grandmother, I am not a librarian. Yet, in 2007, shortly after my mother passed away, I found myself cataloguing my father’s collection of math books and relishing every moment spent with and about these books.

The collection was a working library of more than 1,100 books, started by my grandfather, Tobias (Toby) Dantzig, who studied mathematics and physics at the Sorbonne around 1905-1910 and later was professor of mathematics and chair of the department at the University of Maryland. My father inherited and augmented Toby’s library with books of his own. When we think of most books, we imagine the story is inside; be it a novel or an opportunity to learn mathematics. But with this library, the books themselves are also a story; each volume a chapter.

Opening Andy’s book was only the beginning of the story. I knew Andy when I was a child growing up in Los Angeles, when my father worked at Rand Corporation. But what did I really know about Andy or his work? I looked him up on the Web. And then I found out that Andrew Vazsonyi’s real name was Endre Weiszfeld. Moreover, Andy had another pseudonym – Zepartzatt Gozinto – for which my father was indirectly responsible! Each of these pseudonyms has a story. A math prodigy born in Hungary, Weiszfeld changed his name to Vazsonyi in an attempt to circumvent the anti-semitism that was rampant in the 1930s. Zepartzatt Gozinto was a joke that took on a life of it’s own. Andy was an important and talented mathematician who played a key role in the founding of TIMS, The Institute of Management Science, and a delightfully funny man.
“To my Toby, E.E. Hagler Jr.,” written on the front flyleaf of a slightly worn first edition copy of Luther Eisenhart’s 1933 book “Continuous Groups of Transformations.” No doubt Toby loved this book. Eisenhart was a great American mathematician and educator, whose areas of interest – Riemannian geometry and physics – aligned well with Toby’s. My grandfather played a key role in transforming the mathematics department at the University of Maryland, from that of an agricultural school to one in which faculty and students studied and did serious mathematical research. And not far way, Eisenhart transformed the Princeton mathematics department into a premier institute for research.

But who was E.E. Hagler Jr., who was so devoted to my grandfather? Between letters in Toby’s papers and the Web, I learned that Hagler was educated at Harvard and was a colonel in the U.S. Army. Hagler signed his name in 14 books in the GBD library on a variety of topics. Perhaps when he passed away Toby inherited or purchased volumes from his widow, or like this book by Eisenhart, perhaps they were gifts.

I found two copies of “Beitraege zur Theorie der linearen Ungleichungen,” Theodore S. Motzkin’s dissertation, translated “Contributions to the Theory of Linear Inequalities.” This work anticipated the development of linear programming by 14 years and is probably the reason Motzkin is known as the “grandfather of linear programming.” A close family friend, Ted, as he was known, was a gentle, mild mannered man, with intense eyes and a sweet smile, and he “lived” mathematics, even keeping small pieces of paper by his bed so that when he had an idea at night he would be able to write it down.

His dissertation is interesting from an historic perspective – bridging the gap between Fourier and my father’s work. Ted, a student at the University of Basel in Switzerland, was awarded his Ph.D. in 1933, but it was not published until 1936 in Jerusalem. One can trace the mathematical lineage of Motzkin’s advisor, Alexander Ostrowski, back to Gauss. And until his untimely death in 1970, Motzkin was my husband’s Ph.D. advisor at UCLA.
“Introduction to Higher Geometry: Projective Geometry, Algebraic Geometry, Analysis Situs” by Solomon Lefschetz is part of a set of mimeographed notes from Princeton in the 1930s. One of my dad’s colleagues at Rand Corporation was Merrill Flood, who earned his Ph.D. at Princeton during that time period. Flood’s pencil-written notes are on the mimeographed notes, which were prepared by Princeton and then given to the participants. The title page is hand drawn in pencil. My dad wrote, “Intro. Higher Geometry and Lefschetz” on the spine.

Like my grandfather, who wrote a textbook on analytic geometry, Lefschetz was born in Russia, educated in Paris and left for the United States because he knew that as a non-French citizen he could not hope to get an academic job in France. In the United States, he found work as an engineer, and then tragedy befell him. He was injured in a work-place accident and lost both his hands. After a while, he went back to school and finished a Ph.D. Eventually he became chairman of the Princeton math department where he had 26 graduate students. According to the Math Genealogy project, Lefschetz has more than 7,000 descendants.

One of Lefschetz’s graduate students was Albert W. Tucker, who went on to become chairman of the same department at Princeton. Tucker himself had numerous graduate students, including several who were close friends with my dad, as was he. The collection includes eight books co-authored by Tucker, including “Recent Advances in Game Theory: Papers Delivered at a Meeting of the Princeton University Conference,” Oct. 4-6, 1961, co-written with Oskar Morgenstern and Michael Maschler. This volume was only available to participants at the conference. Al Tucker worked hard not only at research, but also to promote better math education in schools. He and my father had great respect for one another. Al’s son, Alan C. Tucker, was my father’s Ph.D. student at Stanford.

So now I have shared with you a few chapters from the Dantzig library, a glimpse into the history of mathematics and mathematicians of the 20th century – a library that I hope will continue to grow, to educate and expand more minds and new mathematical ideas in the future. For details about the Dantzig library, contact