Ralph E. Gomory is the son of Andrew L. Gomory and Marian Schellenberg Gomory. He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1950, studied at Cambridge University, and received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1954.
He served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1957. While in the Navy, he became interested in the mathematics of operations research. Returning to Princeton in 1957 he was named Higgins Lecturer and then Assistant Professor. Among his mathematical achievements at that time were founding contributions to the field of integer programming, an active area of research to this day.
Gomory joined the newly formed Research Division of IBM in 1959 and was named an IBM Fellow in 1964. At IBM, while continuing his significant mathematical work, he helped to establish that company as one of the major research institutions in the world. In 1970 he was named Director of Research of IBM with line responsibility for the Research Division. He continued in a leadership role for the next 20 years as Director of Research and eventually IBM Senior Vice President for Science and Technology.
During his tenure the Research Division made many fundamental contributions to advanced technology in such areas as the single-transistor memory cell, high-density storage devices, silicon processing methods, and the invention of the relational database and the RISC computer architecture. His researchers also won two successive Nobel Prizes in Physics and it was there that Benoit Mandelbrot invented the concept of Fractals.
On reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 for corporate officers at IBM, Gomory became president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 1989.
During his 18 years as president, the foundation pioneering work relevant to many national issues. The foundation’s made signifIcant contributions to to the field of on-line learning before there was even a public internet. Its continued suppport was a major factor to growing the field and by 2004 seveal milllion people had taken courses for credit on line. The foundation was early in perceiving the threat of bioterrorism and was active in that area for several years before the events of 9/11, and then collaborated actively with the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. The foundation supported studies of dangerous microbial agents has blossomed into the field known today as the microbiology of the built environment (MBE), a full fledged and widely recognized scientific field. The foundation supported the widely recognized Sloan Digital Sky Survey , which has made major contributions to the problem of dark energy. The foundation initiated a major worldwide effort to survey life in the oceans known as the Census of Marine Life which had made major contributions to our understanding of what lives in the oceans. The Foundation also supported the development of an innovative graduate degree, the Professional Science Masters, designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics while simultaneously developing workplace skills valued by employers. The foundation startedan important association for industry studies (ISA), and launched a major program advocating a more flexible workplace.
In December 2007, Gomory became president emeritus and joined the Stern School of Business at New York University as a research professor.
Currently, Gomory does research on the complexities of the globalized economy and the differing goals of countries and companies. His 2001 book, co-written with Professor William Baumol, Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests, raised the question of the roles and responsibilities of American corporations in a world where national economic interests may be in conflict.
Gomory has written extensively for both technical and non-technical audiences on Trade, The Role of the Corporation, Science, Technology and Mathematics. Many of these articles appear under the headings on this website.
Gomory served on the boards of several well know corporations including The Washington Post Company and the Bank of New York. He was named one of America’s ten best directors by Director’s Alert magazine in 2000. He was also a trustee of Princeton University.
He has testified on various occasions to congressional committees.
Gomory was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Philosophical Society. He was also elected to the governing councils of all three organizations. He is also a fellow of the Econometric Society.
Gomory served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) under Presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. For more than a decade he was a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP).
Awards and Honors
Gomory’s work, both his own research and his technical leadership. has been widely recognized. He has received a long list of significant awards, including the National Medal of Science, and been given seven honorary degrees.