It appears to have been discussed informally by mathematicians at mathematics meetings for many years.
—George Dantzig, Ray Fulkerson, and Selmer Johnson, 1954.1
The traveling salesman problem is known far and wide, but the path it has taken to such mathematical prominence is somewhat obscure. For example, we cannot say for certain when the problem’s lively name first came into use. Nevertheless, most of the story can be told, albeit with the help of an educated guess here and there. Its telling serves the useful side purpose of getting our TSP feet wet before jumping in with details of current attempts to crack the notorious problem.
As a practical matter, the TSP was tackled by humans long ...