In Memoriam Garth P. McCormick

September 2, 2008

Noted in the SIAM Activity Group on Optimization list serve was the following sad note.

In Memoriam Garth P. McCormick

Garth P. McCormick, 72, a preeminent leader in the field of mathematical optimization, and retired professor at George Washington University, died August 24 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He had metastatic cancer.

He was a Professor of Applied Science in the Department of Operations Research at George Washington University, where he began teaching in 1971. Professor McCormick's specialty was nonlinear programming and optimization. He published scores of research articles and authored or co-authored three books in the field. After suffering a major stroke in 1992, he battled to regain his mathematical capabilities and even performed some research, but eventually he went on disability and retired as Emeritus Professor in 1996.

In 1968, with Anthony Fiacco, he authored Nonlinear Programming: Sequential Unconstrained Minimization Techniques, a groundbreaking book in optimization. The book was awarded the Lanchester Prize in Operations Research in 1968 and was reissued in 1990 as part of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Classics in Applied Mathematics series. The book opened up important research areas in applied mathematics and was the seminal work in interior point methods for linear and nonlinear programming. In the period since the publication of this work, thousands of technical papers have been published extending and expanding the central ideas of the book. The techniques developed from this research have been used in applications as diverse as airline crew scheduling, electric power generation, design of telescopes to search for planets circling distant stars, microwave antenna design, determining economic equilibria, and analysis of complex strategies for auctions. This book was followed by the book Selected Applications of Nonlinear Programming, with Jerome Bracken, also published in 1968, and the textbook Nonlinear Programming: Theory, Algorithms, and Applications published in 1983. Professor McCormick also developed the theory and methodology of factorable programming which was influential in development of algorithms for computing derivatives of mathematical functions on computers.

Professor McCormick was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana and attended Oberlin College on a full four-year tuition scholarship, graduating in 1956. After serving in the army for two years, he received an M.A. in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1959. In 1960 he joined the Research Analysis Corporation (RAC) in McLean, Virginia. He also taught at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1969 until 1971. After he began his career at GW in 1971, he consulted for many business and government organizations, including the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In addition to his research and consulting, he directed several doctoral dissertations at GW.

Before he suffered the stroke, he was a dedicated tennis player and runner. He organized July 4th tennis tournaments and led neighborhood caroling at Christmastime. He was a member of the Cosmos Club from 1973 until 2004. Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Virginia S. McCormick, four children and three grandchildren.

Ariela Sofer

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