I think of modern mathematicians as a distinct race characterized by their non-interest in applications. From a historical point of view mathematicians before, let us say, 1820 were very closely tied to physics–or, in the case of probability theory, to gambling. For the past 150 years, however, mathematicians have created their own abstractions and followed the mathematical fads that happen to be in fashion. The fact that there is a whole world of exciting new mathematics out there in such fields as Operations Research, Computer Science, Optimization Theory has not excited their interest. I for one have no interest in trying to re-educate them–it would be a hopeless task. The most we can hope for is that they can be educated to the point that they don’t prejudice gifted students too much against that wonderful world of mathematics that goes by different names. (…) Students are being brainwashed into thinking that pure mathematics is in some way purer than other forms of mathematics. I have never been able to tell the difference between the so-called pure and the nonpure and don’t believe that there’s any. Just because my mathematics has its origins in a real problem doesn’t make it less interesting to me–just the other way round, I find it makes the puzzle I am working on all the more exciting. I get satisfaction out of knowing that I’m working on a relevant problem.
An Interview with George B. Dantzig: The Father of Linear Programming, The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 17, No. 4, September 1986.