From www.telegraph.co.uk"Mandelbrot attended the Lycée Rolin in Paris, but was not a good student; it was said that he never learned the alphabet (he could never use a telephone directory, for example), nor his multiplication tables past five.

Despite his poor performance at school, he found that he had a quite extraordinary ability to "visualise" mathematical questions and solve problems with leaps of geometric intuition rather than the "proper" established techniques of strict logical analysis. "

## Benoit Mandelbrot

## Benoit Mandelbrot, who died on October 14 aged 85, was largely responsible for developing the discipline of fractal geometry – the study of rough or fragmented geometric shapes or processes that have similar properties at all levels of magnification or across all times.

In a seminal essay entitled How Long Is the Coast of Britain?(1967), Mandelbrot showed that the answer to that question depends on the scale at which one measures it: the coastline grows longer as one takes into account first every bay or inlet, then every stone, then every grain of sand.

First in isolated papers and lectures, then in The Fractal Geometry of Nature(1982), which has sold more copies than any other book of advanced mathematics, Mandelbrot argued that most traditional mathematical and classical geometric models were ill-suited to natural forms and processes. "Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line," he wrote.

Benoit B Mandelbrot (he awarded himself a middle initial, although it stood for nothing) was born on November 20 1924 in Warsaw, Poland, into a family of Lithuanian Jewish extraction. His father made his living selling clothes while his mother was a doctor, but the family had a strong academic tradition and, as a boy, Mandelbrot was introduced to mathematics by two uncles.

In 1936 Mandelbrot's family emigrated to France where one uncle, Szolem Mandelbrot, a Professor of Mathematics at the Collège de France, took responsibility for the boy's education. Mandelbrot attended the Lycée Rolin in Paris, but was not a good student; it was said that he never learned the alphabet (he could never use a telephone directory, for example), nor his multiplication tables past five.

Despite his poor performance at school, he found that he had a quite extraordinary ability to "visualise" mathematical questions and solve problems with leaps of geometric intuition rather than the "proper" established techniques of strict logical analysis. After the war he passed the entrance exams for the École Polytechnique, achieving the highest grade in Algebra by "translating the questions mentally into pictures".

Read more at www.telegraph.co.uk

I was rather saddened to learn this the other day, I must admit. Fractal geometry changed my life. Well, it changed everyone's life, but I was personally affected, too.

ReplyDeleteI knew nothing about his background before I read this article.

ReplyDeleteThe way he was able to move forward despite the system is inspiring to me - the fact that he looked at things in a 'different' way - the fact that he was independent of mind enough to do that - it's great.

I am curious when you say that fractal geometry changed your life and that you were personally affected...