John von Neumann Theory Prize

2017 - Winner(s)

2017 Winner(s)


The award recognizes the seminal contributions that Donald Goldfarb and Jorge Nocedal have made to the theory and applications of nonlinear optimization over the past several decades. These contributions cover a full range of topics, going from modeling, to mathematical analysis, to breakthroughs in scientific computing. Their work on the variable metric methods (BFGS and L-BFGS, respectively) has been extremely influential.

Goldfarb’s deep research contributions tie together the theoretical and the very practical in traditional linear and nonlinear programming, interior point methods, and the newly in vogue methods developed for signal processing and machine learning; and doing all that through a unique understanding of the fundamental issues in each and all of these areas. His contributions to the field are exceptionally broad, very influential and long-lasting, beginning with the famous Broyden-Fletcher-Goldfarb-Shanno (BFGS) algorithm for nonlinear optimization in the 60’s, then the revolutionary steepest edge simplex method for linear programming in the 80’s and in the last decade first-order methods for large-scale convex optimization. The primal and dual steepest edge simplex algorithms, devised by Goldfarb with Reid and Forrest, respectively, are the most widely used variants of the simplex method. Goldfarb’s work provides the theoretical foundation for many variants of this method implemented in most state-of-the-art commercial linear programming solvers. The Goldfarb-Idnani dual active set method for quadratic programming (QP) is one of the most widely used QP methods.  One should also add that Goldfarb has a knack for exciting both talented PhD students and collaborators, to work on important research problems that he identified.

Nocedal made seminal contributions to the area of unconstrained and constrained nonlinear optimization that have fundamentally reshaped this field. This includes the development of L-BFGS methods, extending interior point methods to non-convex constrained optimization, co-authoring a highly influential book in nonlinear optimization, and recently illuminating the interface between optimization and machine learning via efficient and effective second-order methods. In the 1980s, Nocedal invented the L-BFGS optimization algorithm, the limited memory version of the BFGS method. This opened the door to solving vastly larger unconstrained and box-constrained nonlinear optimization problems than previously possible: Nocedal’s L-BFGS algorithm requires storage that is only a small multiple of the number of variables, whereas the original BFGS method required a quadratic amount of storage. The L-BFGS algorithm has had an immense practical impact, which is difficult to overstate. Nocedal was also instrumental in extending the interior-point revolution beyond convex optimization. In the late 1990s, he and his collaborators proposed the first theoretically sound algorithm for nonlinear and nonconvex optimization problems. This algorithm was practical and, importantly, did not rely on strong assumptions. It should also be added that, all throughout his career, Nocedal has been outstanding at mentoring both students and junior colleagues.

For their fundamental contributions, theoretical and practical, that have, and continue to have, a significant impact on the field of optimization, Donald Goldfarb and Jorge Nocedal are being awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

Purpose of the Award

2017 Committee Chair

Avishai Mandelbaum
Technion Israel Institute of Technology
Haifa, Israel

Click here for committee information.

The John von Neumann Theory Prize is awarded annually to a scholar (or scholars in the case of joint work) who has made fundamental, sustained contributions to theory in operations research and the management sciences. The award is given each year at the INFORMS Annual Meeting if there is a suitable recipient. Although the Prize is normally given to a single individual, in the case of accumulated joint work, the recipients can be multiple individuals.

The Prize is awarded for a body of work, typically published over a period of several years. Although recent work should not be excluded, the Prize typically reflects contributions that have stood the test of time. The criteria for the Prize are broad, and include significance, innovation, depth, and scientific excellence.

The award is $5,000, a medallion and a citation.

Nominations due July 31, 2017

The Prize Committee is currently seeking nominations, which should be in the form of a letter (preferably email) addressed to the prize committee chair (below), highlighting the nominee's accomplishments. Although the letter need not contain a detailed account of the nominee's research, it should document the overall nature of his or her contributions and their impact on the profession, with particular emphasis on the prize's criteria. The nominee's curriculum vitae, while not mandatory, would be helpful.

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About the Award/Namesake

John von Neumann Award Photo

John von Neumann was a brilliant mathematician, synthesizer, and promoter of the stored program concept, whose logical design of the IAS became the prototype of most of its successors - the von Neumann Architecture. von Neumann was invited to visit Princeton University in 1930, and when the Institute for Advanced Studies was founded there in 1933, he was appointed to be one of the original six Professors of Mathematics, a position which he retained for the remainder of his life. Postwar von Neumann concentrated on the development of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) computer and its copies around the world. His work with the Los Alamos group continued and he continued to develop the synergism between computers capabilities and the needs for computational solutions to nuclear problems related to the hydrogen bomb.

Learn more about John von Neumann

Past Awardees

2017 Winner(s)
Donald Goldfarb, Columbia University Jorge Nocedal, Northwestern University
2016 Winner(s)
Martin I. Reiman, Columbia University Ruth J. Williams, University of California - San Diego
2015 Winner(s)
Vašek Chvátal, Concordia University, Dept. of Computer Science & Software Engineering Jean Bernard Lasserre, CNRS, France
2014 Winner(s)
Nimrod Megiddo, IBM
2013 Winner(s)
Michel L Balinski, C.N.R.S. and Ecole Polytechnique
2012 Winner(s)
George L. Nemhauser, Georgia Institute of Technology, Dept. of Industrial & Systems Engineering Laurence A. Wolsey, Universite Catholique de Louvain, C O R E
2011 Winner(s)
Gerard P. Cornuejols, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business
2010 Winner(s)
Peter Glynn, Stanford University Søren Asmussen, Aarhus University, Denmark
2009 Winner(s)
Yurii Nesterov, CORE/UCL Yinyu Ye, Stanford University, Department of Management Science & Engineering
2008 Winner(s)
Frank P. Kelly, Centre for Mathematical Science, University of Cambridge
2007 Winner(s)
Arthur F. Veinott, Jr., Stanford University
2006 Winner(s)
Martin Grötschel, ZIB
László Lovász, Eotvos University, Institute of Mathematics Alexander Schrijver, CWI, National Research Institute for Mathematics & Computer Science
2005 Winner(s)
Robert J. Aumann, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Center for Rationality
2004 Winner(s)
J. Michael Harrison, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business
2003 Winner(s)
Arkadi Nemirovski, Georgia Institute of Technology, School of ISyE Michael J. Todd, Cornell University
School of Operations Research and Information
2002 Winner(s)
Cyrus Derman, Professor Operations Research, Columbia University Donald L. Iglehart, Stanford University
2001 Winner(s)
Ward Whitt, Columbia University, Industrial Engineering & Operations Research Dept.
2000 Winner(s)
Ellis L. Johnson, School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology Manfred W. Padberg, New York University, Stern School of Business
1999 Winner(s)
R. Tyrrell Rockafellar, University of Washington, Dept. of Mathematics
1998 Winner(s)
Fred W. Glover, OptTek Systems, Inc.
1997 Winner(s)
Peter Whittle
1996 Winner(s)
Peter C. Fishburn
1995 Winner(s)
Egon Balas, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business
1994 Winner(s)
Lajos Takacs
1993 Winner(s)
Robert Herman, University of Texas-Austin
1992 Winner(s)
Alan J. Hoffman, IBM Philip S. Wolfe, IBM
1991 Winner(s)
Richard E. Barlow, University of California-Berkeley Frank Proschan
1990 Winner(s)
Richard M. Karp, University of California - Berkeley, Dept. of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
1989 Winner(s)
Harry M. Markowitz , Baruch College
1988 Winner(s)
Herbert A. Simon
1987 Winner(s)
Samuel Karlin , Stanford University
Dept of Mathematics
1986 Winner(s)
Kenneth J. Arrow , Stanford University, Dept. of Economics
1985 Winner(s)
Jack Edmonds, University of Waterloo, Dept. of Combinatorics & Optimization
1984 Winner(s)
Ralph E. Gomory , Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
1983 Winner(s)
Herbert E. Scarf, Yale University
1982 Winner(s)
Abraham Charnes William W. Cooper, University of Texas - Austin, MSIS Department Richard J. Duffin
1981 Winner(s)
Lloyd S. Shapley , University of California - Los Angeles, Dept. of Economics
1980 Winner(s)
David Gale Harold W. Kuhn, Princeton University Albert W. Tucker
1979 Winner(s)
David Blackwell , University of California - Berkeley
1978 Winner(s)
John F. Nash, Princeton University, Mathematics Dept. Carlton E. Lemke
1977 Winner(s)
Felix Pollaczek
1976 Winner(s)
Richard Bellman
1975 Winner(s)
George B. Dantzig, Stanford University