I am deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Benoît Mandelbrot, in fact I didn’t want to believe the twitter “news” floating around last night until I see positive confirmation from a major news source (in this case, the NYT report talking to Dr. Mandelbrot’s wife Ailette).
Long time ago when I was taking an university Algebra class in the summer with an older and kind professor, I bought to the class a book with picture of a beautiful looking and mysterious object (I later learned, a Mandelbrot set) on the cover. The professor asked me why am I reading the book? I said the images were beautiful. He asked, “Why aren’t you reading the master himself directly?” As a result of this encounter, I have since tried to read original research papers or books when I can.
To me, Dr. Mandelbrot is the man that bought arts and beauty into mathematics for me. Before him, I didn’t quite appreciate the beauty in math. Beauty and the rigour of mathematics coexist beautifully in Mandelbrot set.
Thank you Dr. Mandelbrot, may you rest in peace. (I wished I had written you a fan letter before today. I hope you know you are well loved and respected.)
For the record, the Oct 16th NYT article “Benoit Mandelbrot, Mathematician, Dies at 85” by Jascha Hoffman.
“Benoît B. Mandelbrot, a maverick mathematician who developed an innovative theory of roughness and applied it to physics, biology, finance and many other fields, died on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.
His death was caused by pancreatic cancer, his wife, Aliette, said. He had lived in Cambridge.
Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.
“Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University. “He was one of the primary people who realized these were legitimate objects of study.”
In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Read the rest of this entry »