History of Numerical Analysis

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James C.T. Pool

Oral History (pdf)

Interviewer: Thomas Haigh

James C. T. Pool discusses his career to date. Pool was born on a farm in eastern Kansas. He graduated from a small high school with 33 students. He was awarded a four year scholarship to the University of Kansas. He switched from engineering to physics and then to mathematics. After graduating, he took a summer job at Argonne National Laboratory testing numerical software for chemists. He spent a year at Northwestern as a graduate student of Max Dresden in the Physics Department. He moved with him to the University of Iowa, obtaining a PhD in Physics After completing his PhD, he went to work for Ford in the Mathematical and Theoretical Sciences Department. After a brief foray in academia, he sought and won an appointment at Argonne and was hired as Assistant Division Director of the Applied Mathematics Division.  In short order, he became Acting Division Director. This appointment influenced the rest of his career. He became involved in the management and development of numerical software. Major software projects included EISPACK and LINPACK. After seven years at Argonne, he went to the DOE in Washington DC. His job was to convince higher management that the mathematics and computer science program should be continued. He was successful in the task and the program received new funding. Pool received an offer from the Office of Naval Research as a director. He was able to establish a large scale scientific computing program at ONR, but felt he did not have the freedom he would have liked. He received an offer from Brian Ford to join the Numerical Algorithms Group, Inc. as a Vice President, and he accepted. He helped develop the US market for the NAG library. After NAG, Pool returned to academic organizations, serving first as head of the mathematics and computer science department at Drexel University and then at Caltech where, along with Paul Messina, he built the Center for Advanced Computing Research. Pool also discusses his participation in the IFIP Working Group 2.5 (on numerical software) and his involvement with SIAM.

Key words: EISPACK, LINPACK, NAG Library, IFIP Working Group 2.5, SIAM

Funding Agency: Department of Energy, National Science Foundation

Time frame: 1960's 1970's, 1980's, 1990’s

People: Wallace Givens, Brian Smith, James Cody, Wayne Cowell, Jim Wilkinson, Jack Dongarra , Jorge Moré, Brian Ford, Paul Messina, Ed Block

Location: University of Kansas, University of Iowa, Ford, Argonne National Laboratory, DOE (Washington DC), ONR, NAG ((Downers Grove IL), Drexel University, Caltech

Citation: James C. T. Pool: Oral history interview by Thomas Haigh, 14 - 15 July, 2004, Washington D.C.  Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia, PA


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