Carnegie Mellon University

Academic Symposium and Memorial

Oct. 27-28, 2019

Carnegie Mellon University
Tepper School of Business
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Egon Balas, a pioneer in integer and disjunctive programming and University Professor of Industrial Administration and Applied Mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University, once admitted he had been convicted of a crime while being interviewed for jury duty. The charge: conspiracy to overthrow a government.

Balas, University Professor of Industrial Administration and Applied Mathematics and The Thomas Lord Professor of Operations Research at the Tepper School of Business, died on March 18, 2019. He was 96. His early life included two imprisonments — one for joining the communist party to oppose the Nazis during World War II and the second by the communist party after the war in a Stalinist purge. He later became one of the world's foremost experts in mathematical optimization after joining Carnegie Mellon in 1967.

"A beloved member of the CMU faculty for more than half a century, Egon Balas was a preeminent and legendary scholar who was enormously influential in the fields of operations research and applied mathematics," said Farnam Jahanian, President of Carnegie Mellon University. "Throughout his long and distinguished career as a researcher and teacher, he applied bold, focused and independent thinking to solve complex problems and also demonstrated a profound sense of humility, character and good humor. His extraordinary life and legacy will continue to serve as an inspiration to the entire CMU community."

In 1959, at the age of 37, Balas immersed himself in the then-emerging field of linear programming, gaining recognition with a novel solution to a timber-harvesting problem.  He called his solution the Additive Algorithm, similar to what is known as implicit numeration or constraint propagation today. He later earned Ph.D. degrees in economics (University of Brussels, 1967) and mathematics (University of Paris, 1968).

Balas circulated his findings at several conferences, publishing them in 1965 in the journal Operations Research. It became one of the most oft-cited optimization papers of its day. William Cooper, the associate editor who worked with Balas on the article, later helped bring Balas to Carnegie Mellon in 1967. (Cooper was a founding faculty member of the Graduate School of Industrial Administration, forerunner to the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.)

Bob Dammon, dean of the Tepper School of Business, remarked “Egon Balas was a highly accomplished researcher in the field of applied mathematics and a true pioneer of the field of integer programming. He will be missed by all who had the great pleasure to know him and work alongside him.”

"As a University Professor and respected member of the Tepper School faculty, Egon epitomized the incredible work ethic and scholarly achievements that lie at the heart of our university's academic culture," said James H. Garrett Jr., Provost of Carnegie Mellon University and the Thomas Lord Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "His life journey was filled with courage and an earnest sense of discovery, and he brought these admirable qualities to the classroom to inspire every student he taught. We will always appreciate Egon's dedication in seeing our university thrive, and will cherish all of his contributions that have enriched Carnegie Mellon's culture of learning."

Donate to the Egon Balas Ph.D. Fellowship Fund

List of Symposium Speakers

  • Dan Bienstock
  • Pierre Bonami
  • Sebastian Ceria
  • Gérard P. Cornuéjols
  • Laureano Escudero
  • Matteo Fischetti
  • Ignacio Grossmann
  • Aleks Kazachkov
  • Tamas Kis
  • Miguel Lejeune
  • Andrea Lodi
  • Nelson Maculan
  • Gabor Pataki
  • Michael Perregaard
  • Bill Pulleyblank
  • Maurice Queyranne
  • Matt Saltzman
  • Tuomas Sandholm
  • Niel Simonetti
  • Cid de Souza
  • Paolo Toth
  • Eitan Zemel

Egon Balas, University Professor of Industrial Administration and Applied Mathematics, The Thomas Lord Professor of Operations Research

Egon Balas (2018) Academic Minds

Egon Balas (2016) Interview by Irv Lustig