Where did the name Dynamic Programming come from?

… the 1950’s were not good years for mathematical research. We had a very interesting gentleman in Washington … Secretary of Defense, and  .. had a pathological fear and hatred of the word, research. not using the term lightly; … using it precisely. His face would suffuse,  he would turn red, and .. get violent if people used  the term, research, in his presence. 

What title, what name, could I choose? In the first place I was interested in planning, in decision making, in thinking. But planning, is not a good word for various reasons.

I decided therefore to use the word, ‘programming.’

I wanted to get across the idea that this was dynamic, this was multistage,…I thought, let’s … take a word that has an absolutely precise meaning, namely dynamic, in the classical physical sense. It also has a very interesting property as an adjective, and that is it’s impossible to use the word, dynamic, in a pejorative sense. Try thinking of some combination that will possibly give it a pejorative meaning.

It’s impossible.

It was something not even a Congressman could object to.

Richard Bellman, “Eye of the Hurricane: an autobiography”, 1984


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