In the early 1950s, with a PhD in mathematics from Harvard University, I. Edward Block was working as a mathematician at the Philadelphia-based Philco Corporation. Almost immediately, he saw the need for an organization that would promote the application of mathematics to problems of industry and that would link the many mathematicians who, like him, had been hired after World War II to do basic research, engineering design, and computer programming in industry. With an energy and dedication that have become legendary, he set out to make such an organization a reality.
The first organizational meeting of what was to become SIAM was held in Philadelphia, at the then Drexel Institute of Technology, in December 1951; SIAM was incorporated in 1952. I. Edward Block was elected secretary at the first annual meeting of the new society. Never one to be limited by job descriptions, Ed recruited speakers for the early meetings, publicized the new society's activities, and, as one of four editors of the Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, went to sometimes extraordinary lengths to ensure that the new journal got off to a good start.
In 1976, still working in industry (having left Philco for a series of positions at the Burroughs Corporation, Remington Rand Univac, and, most recently, the Auerbach Corporation) and still devoting countless hours to SIAM activities, Ed was persuaded to become SIAM's full-time managing director. Eighteen years later -- years of steady growth and progress for SIAM -- Ed announced at the 1993 SIAM Annual Meeting in Philadelphia that he would be retiring on August 31, 1994.
"His well-known involvement in every aspect of SIAM's activities has made SIAM what it is today," said John Hopcroft, chair of the SIAM Board of Trustees, at the time of Ed's announcement. "It's hard to imagine SIAM without him."
What SIAM is today, of course, could not be expressed in a few paragraphs. Under Ed's guidance, the original quarterly Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics has given way to eleven peer-reviewed journals, covering traditional applied mathematics as well as numerical analysis and computing. SIAM's first publication, the SIAM Newsletter, appeared in February 1953; renamed SIAM News, it continues to bring a combination of news and technical information to the community. In 1961, SIAM inaugurated its first book series, SIAM Series in Applied Mathematics. Today, SIAM publishes some 25 books a year, including books in several series and a variety of monographs and conference proceedings. The conference program, similarly, from the small meetings of the early 1950s, has expanded to include numerous specialized meetings and workshops each year, in addition to the annual meetings.
At the 1993 SIAM Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, past president Robert E. O'Malley, Jr. acknowledged Ed's energetic and visionary leadership when he officially gave him the name by which he has long been known informally: "Mr. SIAM."
In that spirit, and in recognition of Ed's years of commitment to SIAM, the program of the 1994 SIAM Annual Meeting is dedicated to I. Edward Block.
All meeting participants are welcome to attend a reception and dinner in Ed's honor, Wednesday, July 27, 1994, 7:00 PM in the Fairbanks Room, West Tower. The cost is $45.00 per person.