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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 might well be our most important living scientist. The creator of fractal geometry, he has significantly improved our understanding of, among other things, financial variability and biological rhythms. His work reveals hidden order in what was once perceived as rough, unpredictable, or chaotic. InThe Fractalist,Mandelbrot recounts high points of his life with exuberance and an eloquent fluency, deepening our understanding of the evolution of his extraordinary mind. We follow his early years: born in Warsaw in 1924 to a Lithuanian Jewish family, he was mentored by an eminent mathematician uncle in Paris. 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 problems of the real world. We observe his unusually broad education in Europe, and at Cal Tech, Princeton, and MIT. We learn about his fifty-year affiliation with the IBM 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 and a radical way of unfolding formerly hidden laws governing utter roughness, turbulence, and chaos. Here is a remarkable life story of both the man and his unparalleled contributions to science, mathematics, and the arts.
BENOIT MANDELBROT is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University and IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.