NSB News Release

Ralph Gomory is the Winner of the 2021 Vannevar Bush Award

Ralph Gomory

Ralph Gomory (Credit and Larger Version)

May 5, 2021

Today, the National Science Board (NSB) announced that Ralph Gomory will receive its prestigious Vannevar Bush Award. The award honors science and technology leaders who have made substantial contributions to the welfare of the nation through public service in science, technology and public policy.

“Gomory was involved with so many of the great breakthroughs that were fundamental to the advancement of the information revolution, and he modeled the positive role that industry leaders can play in the advancement of science,” said Maureen Condic, Chair of the 2021 NSB Honorary Awards Subcommittee. “But Dr. Gomory was also a visionary in the world of philanthropy.”

NSB is recognizing Gomory for his long record of mathematical, scientific, and technologically enabled achievements and for work he did while an executive at IBM and as the leader of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“I have been fortunate throughout my working life in having many rewarding experiences. I have enjoyed being a researcher and a scholar. I have also enjoyed having leadership positions which gave me the leverage to contribute in a very different way,” said Gomory. “I am happy to have this award and am very appreciative of the remarkable achievements of Vannevar Bush that it commemorates.”  

After studying at Cambridge University and completing a Ph.D. in mathematics at Princeton University, Gomory served for three years in the U.S. Navy before returning to Princeton as Higgins Lecturer. He continued his connection with the U.S. Navy by applying operations research to the efficient deployment of ships at sea. This led him to invent the field now called integer programming. Pursuing his applied interests, he joined IBM’s newly formed Research Division as a research mathematician. There he continued to make significant contributions to the mathematics of operations research.

Eventually, as head of IBM research, he helped establish it as one of the major corporate research institutions in the world, a significant contributor to science, and to computer technology.

Gomory became President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 1989.  While publishing innovative research on trade and on the role of corporations in the modern world, he led the foundation into pioneering work on many national issues. Under his direction they also successfully developed online education even before there was a commercial internet and developed significant programs to explore life in the oceans and the study of micro-ecology of the built environment.

Many other organizations have recognized Gomory and his awards include the National Medal of Science, the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment. In addition, three awards have been established in his honor: The National Academy of Science’s Award for the industrial application of science, established by IBM, the Ralph Gomory Prize of the Business History Conference, established by the Sloan Foundation, and the Gomory-Mayadas Award for quality online education presented annually by the On-Line Consortium.

The NSB created this award in 1980 in memory of Vannevar Bush, who served as a science advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, helped to establish federal funding for science and engineering as a national priority during peacetime, and was behind the creation of the National Science Foundation. Past award recipients include: Leon Lederman (Fermilab), Harold Varmus (NIH), Nobel Laureate Charles Townes (University of California-Berkeley), David Packard (Hewlett-Packard Company), Jane Lubchenco (Oregon State University), Rita Colwell (NSF), and Walter Massey (University of Chicago).

Last week, the NSB announced its two 2021 Public Service awardees. On May 18, 2021 at 4:45 p.m. EST the NSB will hold a special virtual ceremony that will include a celebratory video, showcasing the work of Gomory and other awardees. The public is invited to attend via YouTube.


Media Contacts
Alison Gillespie, National Science Board, (703) 292-2557, algilles@nsf.gov


About the National Science Board
The National Science Board and the National Science Foundation's Director jointly head NSF. NSB identifies issues critical to NSF's future and establishes the agency’s policies. The NSB also provides the President and Congress with Science and Engineering Indicators, a biennial report on the state of science and engineering in the United States. Members are appointed by the President for six-year terms and selected for their eminence in research, education and records of distinguished service.

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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