Benoit Mandelbrot was a French mathematician born in Warsaw, Poland on November 20, 1924. He and his family moved to Paris, France in 1936 to escape the economic depression in Poland. In Paris, he attended a secondary school where he excelled. The start of World War II however, delayed his career and he was able to take entrance exams only after the liberation of Paris in 1944. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1947. He got his PhD in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Paris in 1952. After that, Mandelbrot held a wide variety of jobs from working as a researcher at IBM to giving talks on cotton prices and income distribution. He held positions as visiting professor at Harvard and MIT later in life and earned tenure at Yale as well.
His most famous accomplishment is the creation offractal geometry . He is known as its father and coined the term "fractal", which describes objects with irregular surfaces at different dimensions. The term fractal comes from the latin word "fractus" which means to break. Fractal Geometry has been applied to all different areas including physics, biology, and finance. Mandelbrot believed that things such as coastlines and clouds, which previously had been thought to be unmeasurable, could be measured with fractals. He also created the Mandelbrot Set which is a specific fractal, represented as the mathematical formula z -> z squared + c. He published his work in his book The Fractal Geometry of Naturein 1982.
The beginning of his thoughts on fractals started when he was a young man. He wondered how long the coast of Britain was. Looking at it from far away, it seems simple enough to measure, but if you zoom in,
you can see so many more jagged edges and zig zag lines that earlier, were hidden. If you zoom in even more, you can see even more lines.
He came to the conclusion that a coastline is in fact, infinite. In order to find a way of measuring and quantifying such an object, Mandelbrot came up with the fractal dimension.
Benoit Mandelbrot died October 14, 2010 from Pancreatic cancer in Cambridge, Massachusetts with more than 15 honorary doctorates.