(November 20, 1924-October 14, 2010)
Born in Warsaw, Poland
Pioneer of fractal geometry
Namesake for the Mandelbrot set
Wrote 'The Fractal Geometry of Nature' (1982)
Held dual French-US citizenship
Why he might be annoying
His last name translates as 'almond bread.'
He added a middle initial 'B.' to his name that did not actually stand for anything.
He rarely proved his ideas rigorously, saying he preferred to 'stimulate the field by making bold and crazy conjectures.'
Despite their name, he did not originate Mandelbrot sets.
He said, 'I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.'
Among much of the public, his fractal geometry is known more for producing cool-looking pictures than any practical application.
Why he might not be annoying
He was married to Aliette Kagan for 55 years until his death.
Fractal geometry was inspired by the seemingly simple question 'How long is the coastline of Britain,' for which the answer changes depending on how closely you look.
Fractals proved useful in a wide range of disciplines, including cosmology (clustering of galaxies), economics (behavior of stock markets) and biology (folding in mammalian brains).
In describing the usefulness of fractals compared to traditional Euclidean geometry, he noted, 'Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth.'
He was described as 'more of a natural philosopher in the old tradition of Galileo or da Vinci than a modern mathematician.'
Credit: C. Fishel
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