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Ralph Gomory
Ralph Gomory was born May 7, 1929, in Brooklyn Heights, New York. He graduated from Williams College in 1950, studied at Cambridge University, and received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1954. Gomory then served in the Navy (1954-57) and then was a Higgins Lecturer and Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton before joining IBM's newly formed Research Division in 1959 as a research mathematician.

In his student and graduate student years (Williams, Cambridge, Princeton), Gomory did research on nonlinear differential equations, but his years in the Navy turned his attention to the applied mathematics of operations research. Back at Princeton he obtained the first general cutting-plane algorithms, which established the field of integer programming. It remains an active area of research today.

At IBM Research in the early 1960's, Gomory published papers with Paul Gilmore on the knapsack, traveling salesman and cutting-stock problems, and with T. C. Hu on flows in multi-terminal networks and continua. In the late 1960's, he developed the asymptotic theory of integer programming and introduced the concept of corner polyhedra. In the early 1970's, he collaborated with Ellis Johnson in investigating subadditive functions related to corner polyhedra that could also play a role in producing cutting-planes.

Gomory served as Chairman of IBM Research's Mathematical Sciences Department from 1965-67 and 1968-70 during an important period of its growth and evolution. This period saw the beginning of Samuel Winograd's work on limits of algorithms and of Benoit Mandelbrot's work on fractals.

Gomory became Director of Research for IBM in 1970, with line responsibility for IBM's Research Division. During his 18 years as Director of Research the Research Division made a wide range of contributions to IBM's products, to the computer industry, and to science. The Zurich Research Laboratory did the work that resulted in two successive Nobel Prizes in physics, Yorktown Heights Research was the birthplace of what is now known as RISC architecture, and San Jose was the birthplace of the concept, theory and first prototype of relational databases.

Gomory, who had become the IBM Senior Vice President for Science and Technology retired from IBM in 1989 and became President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. During his tenure as President he led the foundation into a long list of fields relevant to major national issues. The foundation pioneered in the field of on-line learning supporting this work before there was even a public Internet, and then supported its growth to more than three million people taking courses for credit. They started the now widespread program of industry studies, and engaged a major program advocating a more flexible workplace. The foundation developed a novel and successful approach to the problem of producing minority PhD’s in scientific and technical fields. The foundation was early in perceiving the threat of bioterrorism and was active in that area for years before the events of 9/11. On the scientific side the foundation supported the widely recognized Sloan Sky Survey, which has made major contributions to the problem of dark energy and initiated a major worldwide effort to survey life in the oceans known as the Census of Marine Life. In December 2007, after 18 years as President, Gomory retired from the foundation and became a Research Professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Gomory has served in many capacities in academic, industrial and governmental organizations. He was a Trustee of Hampshire College from 1977-1986 and of Princeton University from 1985-1989. He served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) from 1984 to 1992, and again from 2001 to 2009. He served for a number of terms on the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP). He has recently joined STEP, the Board on Science Technology and Economic Policy of the National Academies.

Gomory has been a director of a number of companies including the Washington Post Company and the Bank of New York. He is currently a director of Lexmark International, Inc., and a small start-up company. He was named one of America’s ten best directors by Director’s Alert magazine in 2000.

Gomory has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Philosophical Society. He was subsequently elected to the Councils of all three societies. He has been awarded eight honorary degrees and many prizes including the Lanchester Prize in 1963, the Harry Goode Memorial Award of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies in 1984, the John von Neumann Theory Prize in 1984, the Medal of the Industrial Research Society in 1985, the IEEE Engineering Leadership Recognition Award in 1988, the National Medal of Science awarded by the President in 1988, the Arthur M. Bueche Award of the National Academy of Engineering in 1993, the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment in 1998, the Madison Medal Award of Princeton University in 1999, the Sheffield Fellowship Award of the Yale University Faculty of Engineering in 2000, the International Federation of Operational Research Societies’ Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Harold Larnder Prize of the Canadian Operational Research Society in 2006.

While continuing his research on integer programming Gomory has written on the nature of technology development, research in industry, and industrial competitiveness, and on models of international trade involving changing technologies and economies of scale. He is the author, with Professor William Baumol, of the book Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests (MIT Press 2001).

Entries by Ralph Gomory

America Rethinks Free Trade

(5) Comments | Posted May 11, 2016 | 4:19 PM

This extraordinary primary season has clearly shown that Americans, whether Democrats or Republicans, have finally rebelled against "free trade."

It is high time.

There is an enormous gap between free trade as it is taught in textbooks and advocated by those who benefit from it and free trade as it...

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A Trade Pact in the Corporate Interest

(23) Comments | Posted May 5, 2015 | 12:32 PM

Spurred on by powerful multinational corporations and aided by their corporate lobbyists, the administration wants Congress to sign a blank check for yet another "free trade" deal, with the same inadequate safeguards as previous failed deals. The administration is pressuring Congress to pass special legislation, known as "fast track," intended...

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Inversions Are Revealing the Ugly Face of Shareholder Value

(0) Comments | Posted September 9, 2014 | 3:05 PM

Something strange is happening to familiar American companies: Burger King has become Canadian, Pfizer seems to be trying to be British, and Walgreens has backed away from becoming Swiss only because of the outcry over their plan for a new nationality. Seeing what our companies are willing to do to...

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It Takes More than Economics 101 to Compete With China

(5) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 3:47 PM

We have heard a great deal this year about manufacturing coming back to the United States. We hear about the diminishing wage gap in some Asian countries and the possibility of lower U.S. energy prices. In addition, a few small examples of goods currently made in China, but now being...

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In This Crisis It's Not Stupidity, It's the Money: Three Relevant Laws

(5) Comments | Posted October 9, 2013 | 2:18 PM

There are three basic laws about discussion, especially political discussion, that are useful in the contentious government situation we have today. The third of these laws is especially relevant because it warns us that what is happening in Congress is not a passing aberration, but in fact a threat to...

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On Manufacturing and Innovation

(5) Comments | Posted July 9, 2013 | 5:31 PM

Manufacturing was once widely recognized as the outstanding strength of America and the basis of its prosperity, but manufacturing also has a more recent history of being almost a pariah. This newer view equated computer chips with potato chips, asserted that manufacturing is better left to others, and suggested that...

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New Goals for American Corporations

(5) Comments | Posted January 14, 2013 | 7:20 AM

"Great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and our duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions."

That quote is not from an Occupy Wall Street organizer or some modern-day corporate watchdog, but from President...

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Mercantilism, Manufacturing, and a Political Problem

(46) Comments | Posted May 22, 2012 | 5:29 PM

People talk a great deal about free trade. But for better or for worse the real world that we live in is more a mercantilist world than it is a free markets and free trade world. And in this mercantilist world there is a fundamental divergence between the goal of...

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Making Corporate Actions Visible

(3) Comments | Posted March 26, 2012 | 11:01 AM

In a recent article we wrote: "America today is very different from the country that fought the Revolutionary War and framed the Constitution. Then, it was a nation of farmers; today, it's a nation of corporations."

Though we are today a nation of corporations, there is remarkably...

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Occupy Wall Street Deserves Our Respect

(26) Comments | Posted October 31, 2011 | 4:21 PM

I must admit that there is something about Occupy Wall Street that makes me think of the American Revolution. Not the fully developed American Revolution complete with an army, George Washington, and Valley Forge; I'm thinking of the earlier days, when there were only sporadic protests and occasional clashes.

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The Real Crime: Concentration of Power

(16) Comments | Posted July 21, 2011 | 10:30 AM

We are missing the lesson of the current British outrage over Murdoch just as we missed the lesson of the financial crisis in America.

Was the real crime in England that employees of the News of the World illegally hacked the cell phone of a missing girl? Was the...

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Does Outsourcing Create Jobs?

(90) Comments | Posted December 6, 2010 | 12:43 PM

A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal declared: "The fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities." This article, and others like it, asserts that while outsourcing may send some jobs overseas it simultaneously creates...

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Jobs, Trade, and Mercantilism - Part II - Dealing With Reality

(17) Comments | Posted September 14, 2010 | 9:07 AM

Read Part I here.

Our massive trade deficit is destroying significant segments of American industry and eliminating badly needed jobs. This is happening because we are slow to recognize an unpleasant reality: We do not live in a world of textbook free trade. We live in a world...

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Jobs, Trade, and Mercantilism - Part I - Facing Reality

(42) Comments | Posted September 13, 2010 | 8:06 AM

Our nation's continuing massive trade deficits are destroying important sectors of American industry and eliminating desperately needed jobs; yet balancing trade is not even on our government's agenda. This is happening because we are not facing reality, the reality that we are not living in a free trade world but...

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The Innovation Delusion

(156) Comments | Posted March 1, 2010 | 10:53 AM

In the United States, innovation has become almost synonymous with economic competitiveness. Even more remarkable, we often hear that our economic salvation can only be through innovation. We hear that because of low Asian wages we must innovate because we cannot really compete in anything else. Inventive Americans will do...

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A Time for Action: Jobs, Prosperity and National Goals

(19) Comments | Posted January 25, 2010 | 10:08 AM

Here in the United States, we talk endlessly about the importance of free trade and of government not interfering with the market. But while we are talking, other nations are busy subsidizing and building up key sectors of their economies, and in this process destroying key sectors in our own...

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Manufacturing and the Limits of Comparative Advantage

(504) Comments | Posted July 8, 2009 | 12:30 PM

The concept of comparative advantage is used with great effect by economists as a sheep/goat separator. Those who understand it are the sheep, almost exclusively economists. The sheep sometimes use comparative advantage to justify things that seem to the goats, the non-understanders, to be counter to common sense. But the...

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Country and Company: Part II - Aligning Goals

(1) Comments | Posted May 6, 2009 | 3:32 PM

The first part of this series asserted that what is good for the modern American corporation is diverging from what is good for our country. This second part describes ways to deal with that problem.

Right now all we want from our companies is to get people back...

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Country and Company: Part I - Divergent Goals

(30) Comments | Posted March 16, 2009 | 3:30 PM

While each economic crisis tends to drive the preceding one out of our minds, it is worthwhile to review the recent sequence of events and ask where did all this come from? First we had globalization and offshoring destroying productive industries and, with them, productive and well-paying manufacturing jobs. Then...

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Profit Isn't Everything: Memoirs of a Fictitious Auto Czar

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2009 | 1:47 PM

As told to Ralph Gomory

When the Administration finally made up its mind to go ahead and install an Auto Czar, almost no one thought of me. When my name finally emerged from the selection process, it was a choice that gave new meaning to the term dark horse. Even...

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