The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

Founded in 1952

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics was founded in 1951 and incorporated on 30 April 1952. There had been a considerable increase in the number of mathematicians working in industry in the United States following World War II, in part a consequence of the numbers who had applied mathematics to military research as part of the war effort. The increasing use of computers in solving industrial research problems was a major reason why the need for applied mathematicians rose so sharply. Discussions took place at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in Atlantic City on 30 November 1951 concerning the setting up of a society to represent the interests of industrial applied mathematicians. I Edward Block, a consulting mathematician at the Philco Corporation, and George Patterson III, a mathematical logician at the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, were two who were most in favour of founding a new society.

In December 1951 an organizing committee which included I Edward Block, Donald B Houghton, Samuel S McNeary, Cletus O Oakley, George Patterson III and George Sonneman met at an engineering lab at the Drexel Institute of Technology. They decided to found the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics at this meeting and it was incorporated in April of the following year. The aims of the Society, as set out at the time, were:-
  1. to further the application of mathematics to industry and science;

  2. to promote basic research in mathematics leading to new methods and techniques useful to industry and science;

  3. to provide media for the exchange of information and ideas between mathematicians and other technical and scientific personnel.
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia provided the new Society with office space, an arrangement which continued from 1952 to 1958.

The first meeting of the Society took place before the Society was incorporated. This first meeting at the Drexel Institute of Technology was held on 17 March 1952 with W F G Swan speaking on Mathematics, the backbone of science. The second meeting on 28 April 1952 was address by Mina Rees speaking on The role of mathematics in government. The rules setting out how the Society would operate were in place by June 1952 and it was proposed that the first publication of the Society, the Bulletin, was made the responsibility of a Council, but its running devolved to a subcommittee, namely the Publications Committee. A Program Committee was also set up to run meetings of the Society. The first annual business meeting of the Society was held in October 1952 at the University of Pennsylvania and was addressed by Grace Hopper on Elementary training of a computer. At this meeting elections were held for the officers of the Society:
President: William E Bradley
Vice President: Grace M Hopper
Vice President: George W Patterson
Treasurer: Emil Amelotti
Secretary: I Edward Block.
The first Council was also appointed at this time.

By November 1952 the new Society had 130 members. The first president soon indicated his wish to resign due to pressure of work and he was formally replaced in May 1953 by Donald Houghton. He was also editor of the SIAM Newsletter which began publication in February 1953.

The Society was originally based in Philadelphia but it soon widened its coverage. A Boston/Cambridge section was established and the first SIAM meeting outside Philadelphia was held in Cambridge on 20 May 1953, addressed by Norbert Wiener. Further sections throughout the United States were quickly established. The first national meeting of the Society was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 28 December 1954.

The Council in its earliest meetings decided that publications would be named "journals" rather than "bulletins". The first issue of the Journal appeared in September 1943. The SIAM Review began publication in 1959. After this, journals were founded to cover special areas: Control (1962), Numerical Analysis (1964), Applied Mathematics (1966), Mathematical Analysis (1970), Computing (1972), Scientific and Statistical Computing (1980), Algebraic and Discrete Methods (1980), Matrix Analysis (1988), Discrete Mathematics (1988), Optimization (1991), Applied Dynamical Systems (2002), and Multiscale Modeling and Simulation (2003). In addition a book publishing programme began in 1961 with the Series in Applied Mathematics. It was followed by: Proceedings in Applied Mathematics (1969), Regional Conferences in Applied Mathematics (1972), Studies in Applied and Numerical Mathematics (1979), Frontiers of Applied Mathematics (1983), Classics in Applied Mathematics (1988), and eight further series since then.

Membership of the Society grew rapidly from its small beginnings in 1952. By the end of 1952 there were 130 member, by 1953 there were 350, by 1954 there were 500, by 1955 there were 1000, by 1958 there were 2000, and by 1980 there were 5000. It was in the 1980s that the Society began to consider International Sections with the first set up in 1986. The United Kingdom section was set up in 1996.

The first activity group of the Society was founded on 19 July 1982; it was the Linear Algebra group. Further groups followed: Discrete Mathematics (1984), Supercomputing (1984), Optimisation (1985), Control and System Theory (1986), Dynamical Systems (1989), Geometric Design (1989), and Orthogonal Polynomials and Special functions (1990). Four further groups have been set up since 1990.

The Society has inaugurated Prizes and established prestigious lecture series. The first was the John von Neumann Lecture (1959). There followed: the Theodore von Karman Prize (1968), the George Polya Prize (1969), and the James H Wilkinson Prize (1979). Many further prizes have been established.

Visit the society website.

Last Updated January 2005