Richard J. Duffin

October 13, 1909 – October 29, 1996

Brief Biography

Richard J. Duffin was a John von Neumann Theory Prize recipient remembered for his contributions to the development of geometric programming. Born in Chicago, Duffin obtained his bachelors degree in physics from the University of Illinois. He remained there for graduate study, writing his dissertation on galvanomagnetic and thermomagnetic phenomena and receiving his PhD in 1935. He lectured at Purdue University prior to joining the Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C. during the Second World War. Duffin’s wartime work led to the development of new navigational equipment and mine detecting technologies.

In 1946, Duffin became Professor of Mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University, where he had the opportunity to work with some of the leading pioneers in operations research.  Many of his students, including former Carnegie undergraduate and future Nobel prize-winner John F. Nash, went on to become OR leaders in their own right. Duffin remained at Carnegie, concurrently working as a consultant to the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, until his 1988 retirement.

Duffin authored a number of publications on graphs and networks, mathematical programming, differential equations, and mathematical modeling. In 1967, he and his former student, Elmor L. Peterson, co-published Geometric Programming. The book introduced algorithms for achieving optimum solutions to nonlinear engineering design problems, effectively kick starting the discipline. The duo would go on to write and present a number of other papers on the subject.

In 1982, Duffin was jointly awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize with fellow Carnegie professors Abraham Charnes and William W. Cooper. They were celebrated for their fundamental contributions to optimization methods, concepts and models for problems of decision, planning, and design. Their work was recognized as a thorough representation of the leading operations research coming out of Carnegie in the 1950s through 1970s. Duffin’s other honors included election into the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts of Sciences. He passed away in 1996 at eighty-seven years old.

Other Biographies

Wikipedia Entry for Richard Duffin


University of Illinois, BS 1932

University of Illinois, PhD 1935 (Mathematics Genealogy)


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


New York Times (1996) Richard Duffin, 87, Researcher in Many Areas of Mathematics. Novmeber 10. (link

Awards and Honors

National Academy of Sciences 1972

John von Neumann Theory Prize 1982

American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1984

Selected Publications

Duffin R. J. (1938) On the characteristic matrices of covariant systems. Physical Review, 54(12): 1114.

Duffin R. J. & Schaeffer A. C. (1952) A class of nonharmonic Fourier series. Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, 72(2): 341-366.

Bott R. & Duffin R. J. (1953) On the algebra of networks. Transactions of the American Mathematical Society, 74(1): 99-109.

Duffin R. J. (1954) A Minimax Theory for Overdamped Networks. Carnegie Institute of Technology: Pittsburgh, PA.

Duffin R. J. (1956)  Infinite programs. Kuhn H. W. & Tucker A. W., eds. in Linear Inequalities and Related Systems, 157-170. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.

Coleman B. D., Duffin R. J., & Mizel V. J. (1965) Instability, uniqueness, and nonexistence theorems for the equation u t= u xx− u xtx on a strip. Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis,19(2): 100-116.

Duffin R. J. & Peterson E. L. (1967) Geometric Programming: Theory and Application. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Anderson W. N. & Duffin R. J. (1969) Series and parallel addition of matrices. Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications,26(3): 576-594.

Duffin R. J. & Peterson E. L. (1973). Geometric programming with signomials. Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications, 11(1): 3-35.

Duffin R. J. (1974) On Fourier’s analysis of linear inequality systems. Balinski M. L., ed. in Pivoting and Extension: In Honor of A.W. Tucker, 71-95. Springer Berlin Heidelberg: Berlin.