The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick

Benoit Mandelbrot, Author
Benoit B. Manderbrot, afterword by Michael Frame. Pantheon, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-37735-7
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 10/30/2012
Open Ebook - 253 pages - 978-0-307-37860-6
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-307-38991-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-00290-6
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Mandelbrot changed the way we look at a wide range of random phenomena from commodity prices to the shapes of mountains, rivers, and coastlines. An “outlier” long before the word became popular, he was born in 1924 to Jewish parents and grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and then Paris, with “a high level of self-confidence” that grounded him throughout his peripatetic life during and after the chaos of WWII. After the war he pursued his scientific dreams at the École Polytechnique in Paris, later at MIT, Princeton, and elsewhere. But the work that led to his great innovation began with his 1958 arrival at the intellectually expansive IBM facility in Yorktown, N.Y. Over the next couple of decades, Mandelbrot discovered patterns in a wide range of phenomena such as price variation and the distribution of galaxies and irregularly shaped objects like clouds that could not be mathematically described. He called his mathematical innovation “fractal geometry.” The memoir captures the enthusiasm as well as the memories of a visionary who loved nothing better than studying complex multidisciplinary concepts. (Mandelbrot died in 2010, after completing this book.) Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Oct.)
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