History of the Diet Problem
# History of the Diet Problem

The diet problem is one of the first optimization problems to be
studied back in the 1930's and 40's. It was first motivated by the
Army's desire to meet the nutritional requirements of the field GI's
while minimizing the cost. One of the early researchers to study this
problem was George Stigler. He made an educated guess of the optimal
solution to linear program using a heuristic method. His guess for the
cost of an optimal diet was $39.93 per year (1939 prices). In the fall
of 1947, Jack Laderman of the Mathematical Tables Project of the
National Bureau of Standards undertook solving Stigler's model with
the new simplex method. It was the first "large scale" computation in
optimization. The linear program consisted of nine equation in 77
unknowns. It took nine clerks using hand-operated desk calculators 120
man days to solve for the optimal solution of $39.69. Stigler's guess
for the optimal solution was off by only 24 cents per year.