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Hello Cousin!

My father has spent time over the last decade collecting pictures and documents related to our family tree.  I greatly appreciate him doing this, and the result is fascinating.  There is no one really famous in my tree, unless you are a follower of (Canadian) prairie socialism, since I think J.S. Woodsworth is in there, by marriage into the Staples family, my father having Staples as a middle name.  But the pictures of past generations are evocative and the stories of families moving from Europe to rural Canada are inspirational.  The bravery in pulling up roots in a world when communication times are measured in weeks or months is unbelievable.  It makes me realize how easy I have had it, and how my own choices are so relatively costless either way.

I addition to real ancestry, there is also academic ancestry, tracing descendents through the academic advisement.  Within operations research (and mathematics more generally), we have a central collection point for academic ancestry:  the Mathematics Genealogy Project.   This site has collected the the advisor/advisee relationships for more than 150,000 mathematicians, including many in operations research.  This site is certainly not new, dating back to 1999 or so 1997, and I have known about it practically since the start.  It is only now, however, that I sent in the information on my own advisors (Don Ratliff and John Bartholdi) and my seven advisees.  It will take a bit of time to update the site.  In the world of Web 2.+, it is strange to have such a delay, but it appears there is still a bit of hand editing.  Soon my tiny part of the tree will be accurate.

For finding my ancestry, the first part is easy:  John Bartholdi was a student of Don Ratliff (starting me on a non-branching family tree), and Don was the student of Manny Bellmore, who also advised now-billionaire John Malone.   Bellmore was the student of Frederick (Tom) Sparrow, a long time faculty member at Purdue.  Looking at Tom’s descendents, I see he was the advisor to Stella Dafermos who advised … fellow OR-blogger, and network guru, Anna Nagurney!  In fact, the picture of Dr. Sparrow comes from Anna’s Virtual Center for Supernetworks. So it turns out that Anna is my … umm… first cousin once removed?  Anyway, we are definitely related, as you can tell by the fact that she writes very well, and I … type things into my blog (generally with too many parentheses and exclamation points!).

I’m continuing to work my way back.  It seems that most people end up back at Gauss, but we’ll see where I end up.  I think I would be more delighted to see that most of operations research blogORsphere comes from close academic relatives!

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Mitch Keller | June 2, 2011 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks for taking the time to update your data and post about us. We’re happy to include those working in OR within our broad definition of “mathematician” and have since we went online in 1997.

    As to the delay in processing, it’s rarely the three weeks we mention, but we need to allow for holiday periods, final exams, etc. We do process data submissions manually, largely because it prevents people from inserting bogus data and defacing individuals’ entries. Neither is terribly common, but just common enough that we need to monitor things. We get a good amount of traffic, but not as much as sites like Wikipedia that can reliably depend on inaccuracies being corrected in a timely manner by community editors. (Even with our manual processing, bad data gets in, in which case update submissions usually lead to inquiries from our staff and a resolution.)

  2. Paul A. Rubin | June 2, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It would be nifty if the MGP had a feature that let you select two mathematicians and see the path, if any, connecting them.

    Coincidentally, my advisor (V. P. Sreedharan) got his degree at your current home, CMU.

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  1. […] Yesterday I was messing around with The Mathematics Genealogy Project and I learned that Anna Nagurney, among others, is a not-so-distant cousin.  That inspired me to shoot off a couple of emails trying to trace my history farther back. […]