Benoit Mandelbrot
Pantheon, New York, 2012, English
Design, General
6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches, hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN: 9780307377357
Suggested Retail Price: $30.00

From the Publisher. A fascinating memoir from the man who revitalized visual geometry, and whose ideas about fractals have changed how we look at both the natural world and the financial world.

Benoit Mandelbrot, the creator of fractal geometry, has significantly improved our understanding of, among other things, financial variability and erratic physical phenomena. In The Fractalist, Mandelbrot recounts the high points of his life with exuberance and an eloquent fluency, deepening our understanding of the evolution of his extraordinary mind. We begin with his early years: born in Warsaw in 1924 to a Lithuanian Jewish family, Mandelbrot moved with his family to Paris in the 1930s, where he was mentored by an eminent mathematician uncle. During World War II, as he stayed barely one step ahead of the Nazis until France was liberated, he studied geometry on his own and dreamed of using it to solve fresh, real-world problems. We observe his unusually broad education in Europe, and later at Caltech, Princeton, and MIT. We learn about his 35-year affiliation with IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and his association with Harvard and Yale. An outsider to mainstream scientific research, he managed to do what others had thought impossible: develop a new geometry that combines revelatory beauty with a radical way of unfolding formerly hidden laws governing utter roughness, turbulence, and chaos.

Here is a remarkable story of both the man’s life and his unparalleled contributions to science, mathematics, and the arts.

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Phil Patton

From 1960s tie-dye to contemporary NASA photos, fractals have emerged as the characteristic pattern of the last 50 years. Like God’s own paisley or chintz, they live at the micro as happily as the macro level and they’ve become the symbolic imagery of complexity and emergence theory in economics and culture. Behind fractals, of course, is Benoit Mandelbrot, whose memoir—The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick—has been published by Pantheon. A show of Mandelbrot’s work currently appearing at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York suggests the huge influence fractals have had on design and thinking about design. “The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking,” curated by Nina Samuel, remains in the BGC Focus Gallery through January 27, 2013.

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