SIAM News Blog

Obituaries: Richard J. Hanson

By Fred Krogh

Richard J. Hanson, 1938-2016.
Richard J. Hanson passed away on December 4, 2016, at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., after battling brain cancer for a year and a half.

Richard was born in Portland, Ore., in 1938 and received his B.S. and M.S. in mathematics from Oregon State University. We met as undergraduates at Oregon State and remained close friends since. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin under Wolfgang Wasow, with a dissertation on turning point theory for ordinary differential equations.

Richard began his professional life as a faculty member at the University of Southern California. In the mid-1960s, he joined Charles Lawson’s computational mathematics group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Due to his encouragement, I joined him at JPL in 1968, only to stay on for 30 years. We were both involved with preliminary work on mathematical libraries at JPL, which led to the MATH77/mathc90 libraries. Richard cowrote the first Basic Linear Algebra Subprograms (BLAS) paper, and coauthored Solving Least Squares Problems with Lawson, published by Prentice Hall in 1974 and republished as part of SIAM’s Classics in Applied Mathematics series in 1995.

After his time at JPL, Richard reentered academia with a joint position in mathematics and computer science at Washington State University. In 1976, he joined Sandia National Laboratories’ Applied Mathematics Group, where he remained until 1987. During this time, Richard served as Algorithms Editor of the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Transactions on Mathematical Software (TOMS) for eight years. This was followed by a short stint at Applied Dynamics International in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he developed software modules efficient enough for use in real-time-in-the-loop software.

In 1989, Richard joined the International Mathematics and Statistics Library (later Visual Numerics) in Houston, Texas. There he continued his work on numerical software. He also spent several years as a member of the research faculty in Ken Kennedy’s Center for High Performance Software Research at Rice University.

Richard rejoined Visual Numerics (later acquired by Rogue Wave Software) in 2005, where he continued to work until leaving Rogue Wave in 2013. He remained professionally active up to the onset of his illness in late 2015.

Richard published numerous papers, including a few joint papers with me. He wrote almost all of his software in Fortran, keeping up with the language’s standards as it evolved. This resulted in Numerical Computing with Modern Fortran, which Richard coauthored with Tim Hopkins. It was published by SIAM in 2013. His later work also involved issues related to taking advantage of multiple processors in mathematical software.

Richard was a longtime member of SIAM, the ACM, and the International Federation for Information Processing Working Group 2.5 on Numerical Software.

He had a lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors, and backpacked, camped, and hiked throughout the U.S. and the world. For the last ten years, Richard particularly enjoyed walking in the foothills and mountains near his home in Albuquerque. He leaves behind Karen Haskell, his wife of 39 years and enthusiastic travel companion, with whom he has also published a few papers. Richard passed along his scientific interests and abilities to his sons Eric, Joe, and Fred, and his daughter Christina. He is also survived by four talented granddaughters, two brothers, a sister, and numerous friends.

Richard was always there to listen to my strange ideas and offer good advice. And I miss him.

The author acknowledges much helpful input from Karen Haskell.

Fred Krogh ( is president of Math à la Carte, prior to which he worked in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

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