A Baltic German mathematician named his son after George Bernard Shaw, hoping he might become a writer one day.

But the world of words didn’t suit George Bernard Dantzig.

By high school, geometry problems fascinated the young scholar, who enrolled in the math and physics program at the University of Maryland.

After finishing his doctorate, he rejected a teaching job to serve as mathematical advisor for the U.S. Air Force Comptroller’s Office, hoping to use his skills to solve real-world problems.

In 1947, Dantzig developed the “simplex algorithm,” a popular tool in linear programming.

The algorithm, used today in a variety of industries, enables mathematicians to develop models to consider many variables in making cost-benefit decisions.

“All such problems can be formulated as mathematical programming problems,” he wrote. “Naturally, we can propose many sophisticated algorithms and a theory but the final test of a theory is its capacity to solve the problems which originated it.”