Book Review: "In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation" by William J. Cook

Embark on a captivating odyssey into the heart of optimization and computation with William J. Cook's "In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman." This book is a masterful narrative that invites professionals in mobile resource scheduling and industries like field service and last-mile delivery to explore the storied quest to solve the traveling salesman problem (TSP).

Bert Van Wassenhove

"In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman" by William J. Cook is not merely a book; it's a journey through the intellectual landscape of one of the most challenging puzzles in applied mathematics and operations research — the traveling salesman problem (TSP). Cook, a prominent figure in the field of operations research, weaves a narrative that is as much a homage to this enduring enigma as it is a chronicle of the relentless pursuit of solutions by mathematicians and scientists.

Cook's book is a treasure trove for professionals in mobile resource scheduling, particularly those in industries like field service and last-mile delivery, where the practical applications of solving the TSP can lead to significant efficiencies and cost savings. The book brilliantly bridges the gap between the theoretical underpinnings of the problem and its real-world implications, making it an essential read for practitioners and theorists alike.

The author traces the roots of the TSP back to the 1800s with the work of Irish mathematician W.R. Hamilton and takes us on a mathematical expedition to the cutting-edge computational techniques of today. What stands out is Cook's ability to make the complex mathematics accessible and engaging, illustrating the TSP's relevance in various fields—from genome sequencing to the arrangement of music, and even in our quest to discover new planets.

For professionals grappling with route optimization and resource allocation, Cook's exploration of how computers and humans approach the TSP will resonate deeply. The book delves into algorithmic strategies, the prowess of modern computers in handling large-scale instances of the problem, and the ingenuity of human problem-solving when faced with this computational behemoth.

One of the most compelling aspects of the book is its discussion on the importance of the TSP in the development of new computational methods and its influence on the broader field of optimization. Cook makes a persuasive argument for the TSP as not just a mathematical puzzle but a catalyst for innovation in algorithmic thinking.

While the book acknowledges that a definitive solution to the TSP remains elusive, it celebrates the progress made and the collaborative efforts of the mathematical community. "In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman" is a testament to the beauty and challenge of mathematical problems and their profound impact on science and industry.

In conclusion, William J. Cook's "In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman" is a must-read for those in the trenches of mobile resource scheduling. It offers inspiration, insight, and a reminder of why we chase after such complex problems: to push the boundaries of what's computationally possible and to find elegant solutions to the practical challenges that define our work.

Buy the book here


Unlocking the Black Box: Explainable AI in Resource Scheduling


Three ways to build customer portals

Get more insights