Dantzig attended Powell Junior High School and Central High School; one of his friends there was Abraham Seidenberg, who also became a professional mathematician. By the time he reached high school he was already fascinated by geometry, and this interest was further nurtured by his father, challenging him with complicated problems, particularly in projective geometry.
George Dantzig received his B.S. from University of Maryland in 1936 in mathematics and physics, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. He earned his master's degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1938. After a two-year period at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he enrolled in the doctoral program in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied statistics under Jerzy Neyman.
Early in the 1920s, the Dantzig family moved from Baltimore to Washington.
With the outbreak of World War II, Dantzig took a leave of absence from the doctoral program at Berkeley to join the U.S. Air Force Office of Statistical Control. In 1946, he returned to Berkeley to complete the requirements of his program and received his Ph.D. that year. Although he had a faculty offer from Berkeley, he returned to the Air Force as a mathematical advisor to the comptroller.
In 1952 Dantzig joined the mathematics division of the RAND Corporation. By 1960 he became a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at UC Berkeley, where he founded and directed the Operations Research Center. In 1966 he joined the Stanford faculty as Professor of Operations Research and of Computer Science. A year later, the Program in Operations Research became a full-fledged department. In 1973 he founded the Systems Optimization Laboratory (SOL) there. On a sabbatical leave that year, he headed the Methodology Group at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Later he became the C. A. Criley Professor of Transportation Sciences at Stanford and kept going, well beyond his mandatory retirement in 1985.
Dantzig died on May 13, 2005, in his home in Stanford, California, of complications from diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He was 90 years old.
George was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1985. He was a fellow of the Econometric Society, Institute of Mathematical Statistics, Association for the Advancement of Science, and Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences. He was president of the Institute for Management Sciences and a founder of the Mathematical Programming Society.
George Dantzig was married to Anna Shmuner on August 23, 1936. They had three children: David Franklin, Jessica Rose, Paul Michael.