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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, the creator of fractal geometry, has significantly improved our understanding of, among other things, financial variability and erratic physical phenomena. In The Fractalist, Mandelbr 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 thirty-five-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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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, Mandelbr 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 thirty-five-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.

30 review for The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    As a memoir I thought it was outstanding but his habit of dropping names became a little annoying. It was as if he was trying to legitimize himself when he didn't need it. He is by far the most interesting and contemporary mathematician I know of and his memoir makes me want to Google all his friends and names he drops. I thought he paid too little page interest in how he woed his wife and gave his family life little worth until the end. Maybe he wanted to protect their privacy but I wish he had As a memoir I thought it was outstanding but his habit of dropping names became a little annoying. It was as if he was trying to legitimize himself when he didn't need it. He is by far the most interesting and contemporary mathematician I know of and his memoir makes me want to Google all his friends and names he drops. I thought he paid too little page interest in how he woed his wife and gave his family life little worth until the end. Maybe he wanted to protect their privacy but I wish he had written more about it. Maybe in a book about his life he didn't consider them as important. I loved the beginning of the book about his early years and looked ahead to find he didn't hardly cover his personal life in the later part. This memoir is mostly about Benoit Mandelbrot's career and how he developed his geometry. There are some amazing photos in here both having to do with fractals and also about his personal life. The ones about his personal life only making me wish there was some more written about it. I hope his wife writes a memoir of her life with him. That said, I do love how he developed his career and gives hope to others who go on the road less traveled. He keeps saying how he got his ideas late in life and outside the mainstream of mathematics. He didn't have the research lab like most scientists have. But he did have a lot of help. And I don't think he gives his helpers enough credit. He hardly mentions the computer programmers who helped make fractals possible. And he had a lot of lucky breaks. And a lot of financial help. I don't think he had college loans for instance. In short, this was a fantastic read about one of today's mathematicians. And it describes clearly how he developed the fractal field. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in geometry, math, fractals or men of science. Or anyone interested in memoir. I loved getting to know Benoit Mandelbrot from this perspective.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ramya

    He was a gypsy by necessity, maverick by fate, and despite it all had the ability to make deep emotional bonds & love life. Reverberates for me! Some of the reviewers ask why there isn't more mathematics and talk of "his fractal world view" -- well this is a memoir and as he does it well and tells of his whole life, development, and self -- not just his driving obsession. His papers and books on mathematics and fractals are better places to understand his fractal view of the world! It's nice to k He was a gypsy by necessity, maverick by fate, and despite it all had the ability to make deep emotional bonds & love life. Reverberates for me! Some of the reviewers ask why there isn't more mathematics and talk of "his fractal world view" -- well this is a memoir and as he does it well and tells of his whole life, development, and self -- not just his driving obsession. His papers and books on mathematics and fractals are better places to understand his fractal view of the world! It's nice to know he was a person, a rather interesting one who was curious, patient, observant, and agile-minded enough to see a basic pattern in everything he saw in the world around him (which wasn't a product of a psychologically disturbed mind!) and able to concretize it into understandable rules and processes for generation. What really amazes me is his rules apply to the dynamic world as we know it -- not in small static bits and pieces as is most often used as is most often amenable to our investigations. That all being said I do wish he'd have talked more ABOUT how and IF his wife and family helped shape his person and thoughts. I am also surprised at no mention of his Jewish heritage/gematria having imprinted him in matters of numbers which was the basic life blood of Mandelbrot! Quotes that summarize nicely this memoir for me: p. 16: "...the onus of remaining a foreigner persisted, expanding from countries to fields of science. This did not prevent me from functioning well enough. But even for an accomplished foreigner, repetition does not make uprooting any easier. It carries a heavy price." p. 208: "Essentially, all I had learned through my otherwise too long and too scattered wandering years gradually changed from a random burden on my memory to a very valuable asset in my work." p.229: "...values far from the norm are the key to the underlying phenomenon." p.292: "In due time, it [geometry] turned out to be an elusive point where formula and picture meet on even terms where theory meets the real world, and where mathematics and hard science meet art so that their worth and beauty shine for beyond the narrow world of experts, bringing an element of unity to the worlds of knowing and feeling." p.297: "Unimaginable privilege, I participated in a truly rare event: pure thought fleeing from reality was caught, tamed, and teamed with a reality that everyone recognized as familiar." p.303: "Complicated shapes might be easily understood dynamically as processes, not just as objects." p.307: "Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules...repeated without end."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Cline

    Benoit Mandelbrot lead a very long and peripatetic life, and unlike most mathematicians, whose major work is done when they are relatively young, his groundbreaking The Fractal Geometry of Nature wasn't published until 1977, when he was 53. Born in Warsaw in 1924 to Lithuanian Jewish parents, he and his family escaped the Nazis to settle in France, where he studied math. He was always interested in applying math to different fields, like economics, fluid dynamics, information theory, many more. Benoit Mandelbrot lead a very long and peripatetic life, and unlike most mathematicians, whose major work is done when they are relatively young, his groundbreaking The Fractal Geometry of Nature wasn't published until 1977, when he was 53. Born in Warsaw in 1924 to Lithuanian Jewish parents, he and his family escaped the Nazis to settle in France, where he studied math. He was always interested in applying math to different fields, like economics, fluid dynamics, information theory, many more. He worked at IBM, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and at universities in France and Switzerland. While his life was interesting, this memoir felt a bit disjointed. He completed it not long before his death in 2010.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eli

    Interesting perspective on mathematical life in the 20th century. Don't completely agree with his assessment, but very interesting learning more of the life experiences that accompanied his evolution as a mathematician. Interesting perspective on mathematical life in the 20th century. Don't completely agree with his assessment, but very interesting learning more of the life experiences that accompanied his evolution as a mathematician.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    The Mandelbrot set M defined by: P-sub-c: C --> C, where C is the complex plane Where: P-sub-c: z --> z^2+c, for some c in C, typically starting at z=0 (P is a map from the complex plane to itself given by the complex quadratic polynomial z^2+c iterated from z0=0, z1=0^2+c=c, z2=c^2+c, z3=(c^2+c)^2+c and continued to find which values for c cause the iteration to eventually increase unbounded to infinity and which are finitely bounded over infinite iterations. This is all super simple to type into c The Mandelbrot set M defined by: P-sub-c: C --> C, where C is the complex plane Where: P-sub-c: z --> z^2+c, for some c in C, typically starting at z=0 (P is a map from the complex plane to itself given by the complex quadratic polynomial z^2+c iterated from z0=0, z1=0^2+c=c, z2=c^2+c, z3=(c^2+c)^2+c and continued to find which values for c cause the iteration to eventually increase unbounded to infinity and which are finitely bounded over infinite iterations. This is all super simple to type into computer software, as in two lines of instruction) M is the set of complex arguments for c that are bounded. The boundary forms one of the mind-blowing images ever conceived. It is globally self-similar with increasing complexity, and zooming deep into a fractal provides the best visual tool for appreciating and abstracting infinity itself and infinite complexity as well as the beautiful complex order and symmetry hiding inside said complexity. And it arises from a function that is understandable to a large extent to high school students, at least the basics of the complex plane and functions with complex arguments. The resulting complexity has to be seen to believe, and it is this complexity-from-simplicity that in many ways provides deep insight into nature, complex systems and structures, and the universe itself... Fractals and their applications and implications, as analytical tools for chaotic dynamical systems and nonlinear dynamics, have revolutionized modern scientific thought. If the entire book was written in the style of the final chapter, then I imagine something that could've been a five-star read. The language and voice is much more organic, thoughtful, reflective, and illuminating. The above description of the now-ubiquitous (rightly so) Mandelbrot set and his discovery and work in the theory of fractal geometry (comprising the latter half of the book) and its innumerable applications defines his deeply influential career. I wanted less of Benoit merely stating these things were major discoveries and more explaining more clearly and descriptively why they matter so much, and the same holds for the many depictions of contemporary geniuses encountered in his life focusing on their personalities and that they did great work but what that work was we are rarely given more than a superficial mention. This is straight-up autobiography, and even though Mandelbrot is one of the most influential (what we would now call) mathematical scientists of the last half-century plus, and he found himself in several fascinating environments surrounded by geniuses, he's simply not very good at writing about them. Memoirs are not a real thing, they are typically bad autobiographies with a supposed slight emphasis on reflection and possibly covering a shorter period of time than a straight historical, event/fact-based narrative. This is too often a boring, literal recounting of the chronological story of someone's life with some ancillary commentary or digression. Granted, his life was incredible and entirely unique, and by all accounts he was a wonderful human being (sadly he passed away recently though remarkably remained active in the scientific community his entire life), so it's frustrating that he frequently makes it dull to read about. Oh well, I've read parts of his "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" and will read the whole thing soon due to transcendent brilliance, and this book is such a quick read that I don't regret picking it up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Antonio

    It's a shame that Mandelbrot died before he could edit his memoirs better. What I found most interesting of this book was the serendipity of Mandelbrot's research, and how indebted he was to the input and advice of his uncle Szolem. He was lucky to stumble upon Zipf's, Haudorff's, Hurst's, and Julia's works. His true merit is making these works widely known. I didn't know he was John von Neumann's last postdoc student, and found that bit surprising. However, I would have preferred less namedrop It's a shame that Mandelbrot died before he could edit his memoirs better. What I found most interesting of this book was the serendipity of Mandelbrot's research, and how indebted he was to the input and advice of his uncle Szolem. He was lucky to stumble upon Zipf's, Haudorff's, Hurst's, and Julia's works. His true merit is making these works widely known. I didn't know he was John von Neumann's last postdoc student, and found that bit surprising. However, I would have preferred less namedropping, and fewer pages about office and university politics. Nobody reading this book cares about Benoit's impressions of the administrators at IBM and the universities he visited. These people were long-dead when this book came out. Mandelbrot is vague when talking about fractal geometry and its place in complexity research. A thorough discussion about the work that he left unfinished in negative dimensions and lacunarity would have been valuable for future researches. In this book he is too vague when talking about what matters. There's only a passing reference to Kolmogorov-Chaitin complexity and no reference to Bennett's physical complexity/logical depth measure, even though he worked throughout most of his career in IBM Research, alongside Gregory Chaitin and Charles Bennett. It makes no sense that he chose to ignore a discussion about the tradeoffs between fractal dimension and Kolmogorov complexity, but decided to talk at length about administrative officers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    It's not very often that you get to read a genius intelligibly describing to you how he came to be a genius; the first half of this book is Mandelbrot's origin story, pretty much. It's encouraging to read how his early academic promise seemed to his family to stall out into unrealized potential in his midlife, when all the while he was doing the interdisciplinary work which would lead to his most famous work later in life. Also encouraging to read about a mathematician who *hadn't* peaked at thi It's not very often that you get to read a genius intelligibly describing to you how he came to be a genius; the first half of this book is Mandelbrot's origin story, pretty much. It's encouraging to read how his early academic promise seemed to his family to stall out into unrealized potential in his midlife, when all the while he was doing the interdisciplinary work which would lead to his most famous work later in life. Also encouraging to read about a mathematician who *hadn't* peaked at thirty and then settled into a staid teaching career, never to make any more field-shaking discoveries. At thirty, Mandelbrot had barely begun to discover! Seeing the influence of his family, their focus on scholarship, and their wisdom in fleeing Poland before they were swept into World War II and how that life-saving pattern-matching ability set the theme for Mandelbrot's interest in studying roughness was also illuminating. The latter bits of the book become somewhat disjointed, perhaps because he's covered so much of the body of his work in his other books. (I also very much liked "The (Mis)behavior of Markets" and really should get around to reading "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" at some point.) So I can see why other readers parsed that as name-dropping, but to me it read like a people-focused collaborator giving credit to all the people in his long life who shared and influenced his work. Mandelbrot is cool enough himself that he doesn't need reflected glory, heh.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Roberto Rigolin F Lopes

    This man figured out the geometry Nature has been using. You may have goosebumps reading a quote from Darwin on natural selection. Both fractals and living forms start from primal simplicity going through many interactions to reach marvellous organized complexity. Mandelbrot was such a brave maverick because he had good role models within his family. His close uncle was a known mathematician but he still managed to create his own path, perhaps the hardest one. We are lucky he did it and wrote th This man figured out the geometry Nature has been using. You may have goosebumps reading a quote from Darwin on natural selection. Both fractals and living forms start from primal simplicity going through many interactions to reach marvellous organized complexity. Mandelbrot was such a brave maverick because he had good role models within his family. His close uncle was a known mathematician but he still managed to create his own path, perhaps the hardest one. We are lucky he did it and wrote this book to tell us how things eventually converged to a breakthrough.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Doug Wells

    Ultimately a likable and interesting autobiography of one of my math heroes. That said, I found the book generally disappointing as it contains almost no math, and is more full of self-congratulation than I like. Mandelbrot was clearly a brilliant man who moved the dial during his lifetime. His writing is an odd mix of humble and self-deprecating, mixed with large doses of ego

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I was pulled in by the first few chapters and his incredible survivor skills. Felt short changed that he was unable to tie in the mathematics that was the basis for his fractal geometry. The latter half of the memoir is too consumed with his academic appointments and contacts and would have been better served with a more substantive discussion of his fractal world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason Evans

    Blah

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Davis

    A quite interesting memoir of the father of fractals - Benoit Mandelbrot. It covers his life perturbations and had been written shortly before he passed away. It does not cover his mathematical contributions in any depth, but nevertheless his story and people he met makes for very interesting reading. I never realised that he was born in Poland, as he had been usually referred to as a French-American. In fact, he was born in a Jewish family in Warsaw in 1924. His family emigrated to France in 19 A quite interesting memoir of the father of fractals - Benoit Mandelbrot. It covers his life perturbations and had been written shortly before he passed away. It does not cover his mathematical contributions in any depth, but nevertheless his story and people he met makes for very interesting reading. I never realised that he was born in Poland, as he had been usually referred to as a French-American. In fact, he was born in a Jewish family in Warsaw in 1924. His family emigrated to France in 1936. He survived war in Vichy France under different name and with help of his French friends. He was under influence of his uncle, Szolem, mathematician who emigrated to France in 1920. Mandelbrot varied and complicated life made him a late bloomer. His contribution to finance happened when he was nearing forty, and discovered the Mandelbrot set only when fifty five years of age. He worked for IBM for 35 years and retired when they stopped their involvement in pure science. Mandelbrot identified himself with the words of George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adepts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dean Parker

    I did not know 95% (maybe more) of the material in this memoir. Of course, I did not know anything about Mandelbrot’s life, that’s to be expected; however, neither did I have a clue about the influence his work had on real geometry and statistical analysis of economics (or maybe it was just the financial variability aspect). I did not even know enough to keep up with most of his discussions. I think I should have since I have a degree in electrical engineering and one in operations research and I did not know 95% (maybe more) of the material in this memoir. Of course, I did not know anything about Mandelbrot’s life, that’s to be expected; however, neither did I have a clue about the influence his work had on real geometry and statistical analysis of economics (or maybe it was just the financial variability aspect). I did not even know enough to keep up with most of his discussions. I think I should have since I have a degree in electrical engineering and one in operations research and statistical analysis (albeit old ones). He wanted to conquer the mathematical description of “roughness” like mountain ranges and clouds. I never would have thought that there was much future in that; nor, that it would be particularly interesting; wrong on both counts. An economic physicist? He talked at length about the many mental giants and physicists that influenced his life and works. It’s kinda humbling in a way. A mental giant himself, I think it is worth a read and a re-read. I am inspired to go back and look-up a lot of things.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joel Stenseth

    Thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by fractal polymath Benoit Mandelbrot about his life and achievements in math and many other fields. He lived an awesome array of experiences. Top french schools, toolmaker when hiding his Jewish identity, Cal Tech rubbing elbows with top academics and many future Nobel prizewinners, time French army, Harvard, Yale, and IBM. It’s crazy that Benoit was so close to death and tragedy during WWII but didn’t actually have to get involved in the fight or tragedy of the h Thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by fractal polymath Benoit Mandelbrot about his life and achievements in math and many other fields. He lived an awesome array of experiences. Top french schools, toolmaker when hiding his Jewish identity, Cal Tech rubbing elbows with top academics and many future Nobel prizewinners, time French army, Harvard, Yale, and IBM. It’s crazy that Benoit was so close to death and tragedy during WWII but didn’t actually have to get involved in the fight or tragedy of the holocaust. Some somber lines like neighbors and friends “vanishing” in the holocaust or during his mandatory year of french officer training “I became an excellent sharpshooter, a skill I am glad never had to be tested further.” Amazing multitude of areas covered in his studies. Geometry, pure math, thermodynamics, quantitative linguistics. Also, an amazing amount of geniuses he collaborated with including De Broglie, Von Neumann, Zipf, Chomsky, Oppenheimer, and many others. Makes me want to learn French and go back to school for pure math.

  15. 4 out of 5

    HarrisonWelch31415

    I got "The Fractalist" a while ago, but I started reading it recently. An autobiography/memoir of Benoit B. Mandelbrot, it is written in chronological order. As an adolescent, his family had to go into hiding during World War II in order to survive. With luck, he excelled academically, and due to constant moving, he had a very broad education. The rest of the book was more interesting to me, as it covered his academic research: fractals. I wish it went a little bit more into the details, but it I got "The Fractalist" a while ago, but I started reading it recently. An autobiography/memoir of Benoit B. Mandelbrot, it is written in chronological order. As an adolescent, his family had to go into hiding during World War II in order to survive. With luck, he excelled academically, and due to constant moving, he had a very broad education. The rest of the book was more interesting to me, as it covered his academic research: fractals. I wish it went a little bit more into the details, but it was good enough to really interest me. This memoir, in some parts, was boring to read. But I think this may be because I am not used to reading autobiographies, as these parts were technically fine. The only glaring mistake was that less than two pages were given to how Mandelbrot met his future wife, Aliette. I read this book because I was supposed to, but I am not sure if I would have read it on my own. So I would definitely recommend this book, but only if you are interested in fractals and like to read autobiographies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Kraut

    Fascinating Story but . . Oy! Dr. Mandelbrot created the mathematics of fractals, the geometry of shapes emerging from repetitive formulae. Sadly, he drafted his memoir from a formula as it repeats and repeats the same scenario - yes, formulaic. And there is so much that could have been written if just someone had asked the right questions. For example, he assisted his father in cutting patterns onto cloth with minimal wastage. In this work, did he acquire a perspective on shapes and repetition. Fascinating Story but . . Oy! Dr. Mandelbrot created the mathematics of fractals, the geometry of shapes emerging from repetitive formulae. Sadly, he drafted his memoir from a formula as it repeats and repeats the same scenario - yes, formulaic. And there is so much that could have been written if just someone had asked the right questions. For example, he assisted his father in cutting patterns onto cloth with minimal wastage. In this work, did he acquire a perspective on shapes and repetition. It might read to you as simplistic, but a good memoir is reflection with insight. One hopes that others will contribute to understanding born mathematician.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rod Haper

    The writing is very uneven, somewhat repetitious, and often disjoint but gives an interesting insight into the life and work of Benoit Mandelbrot. The internecine and often Machiavellian maneuvering within the academic mathematics community are interestingly and clearly illuminated. Imho, a clear thread of over pridefulness oozes from between the lines. The book is unfortunately devoid of any mathematical thoroughness and discussion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bill Yates

    Although not a literary masterpiece, the book kept me reading for two days until I had finished it. My mathematics education was too early to have included the study of fractals, but over the years I have come to appreciate and enjoy the amazing forms of the Mandelbrot Set. We have all been richly favored by a fate which allowed Benoit Mandelbrot to survive the horrors of World War II and to make a lasting contribution to many fields of study.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bruno Roccia

    Biography of Benoit Mandelbrot, including his great achivements. Very good book

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    Slow and not as interesting as I would have hoped.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    A fascinating life, but sometimes the narcissism can be a little much.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tuomas

    Not bad but not good either. The man was very respectable throughout his life story, but it was written in the style of name dropping and story dropping - without the actual stories.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dominik

    Benoit Mandelbrot was no doubt an incredible man. I came across his name when I read Talebs Black Swan and after I read Mandelbrot's book about fractals and finance I was eager to read his autobiography. My expectations were high, if you call yourself a scientific maverick, I expect some good stories. I was a bit disappointed how this book turned out, but the last chapter really turned it around for me. There are two problems, first it lacks good anectodes throughout most of the book, which are Benoit Mandelbrot was no doubt an incredible man. I came across his name when I read Talebs Black Swan and after I read Mandelbrot's book about fractals and finance I was eager to read his autobiography. My expectations were high, if you call yourself a scientific maverick, I expect some good stories. I was a bit disappointed how this book turned out, but the last chapter really turned it around for me. There are two problems, first it lacks good anectodes throughout most of the book, which are (in my opinion at least) crucial for biographies. Second, there were no deep details about his real work, about math. I expected some fascinating details about his "Kepler moments" as he calls them. And rest assured, I am no math-major, I have little knowledge of deeper math, but I am very curious about it. So even for an innumerate, there was too little math (for a mathematician's biography anyways). As I read his book I came to understand it as a description of his career path and his family, which is totally fine, but a bit boring to be perfectly honest. I read that some readers criticized his narcissistic style of writing, comparing himself several times with Kepler, Galileo etc. After having read his book, I think this is a misinterpretation of a genuine amazement about how his life turned out - without the intention to show off. In the last chapter he writes about what he did not achive and his regrets. One thing he also did not achive - and this is a fact which we have to bear in mind when reading this book - is the completion of his memoires. So we are reading a non-revised, rough (excuse the pun) version, which maybe explains some of the shortcomings of this book. Also worth a mention is the absolutley beautiful afterword from a dear friend and colleague of his.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joanne J

    An unusual autobiography by an unusual person. The first 254 pages of this book show how the creative mind works: the original wonder and unease with a seemingly unanswerable question, the input from many sources and many people over years often not realizing the connection to the problem, the continuous search for answers, and finally the fruit of the original idea ripening and changing the way we see the world. This is the life of Benoit Mandlebrot. When, finally, I reached page 255 and read h An unusual autobiography by an unusual person. The first 254 pages of this book show how the creative mind works: the original wonder and unease with a seemingly unanswerable question, the input from many sources and many people over years often not realizing the connection to the problem, the continuous search for answers, and finally the fruit of the original idea ripening and changing the way we see the world. This is the life of Benoit Mandlebrot. When, finally, I reached page 255 and read how everything from 30 years of searching came together and he reached his answer, and how simple and elegant it is, I had goose bumps. He also helped me with a personal dilemma I've often wondered about. My husband was a math teacher. When computers began to be used to solve complex math problems, he scoffed. He wanted to have nothing to do with computers. He couldn't see how they would improve the world of mathematics. I couldn't understand why he wasn't excited about the possibilities computers presented in his field. Mandelbrot explains. It wasn't only my husband that felt that way. It was a lot of mathematicians and leaders in the field who felt the human mind was the only way to solve complex problems. And yet, Mandelbrot was at the leading edge of mathematical computing. He never would have solved his problem without the speed of modern computers. This is not the best autobiography/biography I've read. But it has so much to offer if you're interested in creativity, the unique mind, and how ideas come to fruition. And if you're interested in delving further into the beauty of the natural world, this book will definitely open another door for you in the beauty of the fractal world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jafar

    This tidbit from the biography of another math genius, Kurt Gödel: When he arrived in the U.S., running away from the mayhem of the Second World War, someone asked him how things were in Vienna. He replied: The coffee isn’t as good as it used to be. Math geniuses can sometimes be odd. Mandelbrot did some amazingly seminal work on fractal geometry. His autobiography, however, is entirely something else. Dry prose laced with frequent self-congratulation that makes you alternate between yawning and This tidbit from the biography of another math genius, Kurt Gödel: When he arrived in the U.S., running away from the mayhem of the Second World War, someone asked him how things were in Vienna. He replied: The coffee isn’t as good as it used to be. Math geniuses can sometimes be odd. Mandelbrot did some amazingly seminal work on fractal geometry. His autobiography, however, is entirely something else. Dry prose laced with frequent self-congratulation that makes you alternate between yawning and rolling your eyes. In one passage he mentions Sartre and remarks that he thought Sartre wrote a “clumsy prose.” Yes, clumsy. That’s the word that I was looking for to describe Mandelbrot’s writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alexander The Great

    Great Book! Got this on recommendation from a friend. It was very inspiring read with lots of unexpected happening in Mandelbrot's life. It inspired me in many ways and perhaps motivated me in setting up my goals higher than I could ever thought achieving. Reading about tough and also rewarding life of Benoit caused me to relate to his story so much that sometimes I had goosebumps on my skin. Only thing I didn't like are those long passages about describing the environment in too much detail. Of Great Book! Got this on recommendation from a friend. It was very inspiring read with lots of unexpected happening in Mandelbrot's life. It inspired me in many ways and perhaps motivated me in setting up my goals higher than I could ever thought achieving. Reading about tough and also rewarding life of Benoit caused me to relate to his story so much that sometimes I had goosebumps on my skin. Only thing I didn't like are those long passages about describing the environment in too much detail. Of course it helps reader to better imagine the scene, but perhaps it could be written in more expressive way. IMHO this book is underrated, I would give 4,5 if I could but not 'halves' allowed, then it is just 4.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amar Pai

    Entertaining to some degree, but I was disappointed by the lack of actual math in this book. There's literally one equation. Also Mandelbrot has an EXTREMELY high opinion of himself, that got kind of old after a while. But I have to admit the beginning where he talks about his Jewish ancestors and describes this one picture featuring his uncle Szlomo was pretty fascinating. When you see it, you'll know which one Szolomo is. Entertaining to some degree, but I was disappointed by the lack of actual math in this book. There's literally one equation. Also Mandelbrot has an EXTREMELY high opinion of himself, that got kind of old after a while. But I have to admit the beginning where he talks about his Jewish ancestors and describes this one picture featuring his uncle Szlomo was pretty fascinating. When you see it, you'll know which one Szolomo is.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julian

    Just enough meat for fans of Mandelbrot or scientific outsiders; I doubt others will find enough of interest here to make it worthwhile. I almost gave this two stars due to the lack of math and vainglorious tone, but I am willing to overlook it in a dead man's memoirs... but most will not be so charitable. Just enough meat for fans of Mandelbrot or scientific outsiders; I doubt others will find enough of interest here to make it worthwhile. I almost gave this two stars due to the lack of math and vainglorious tone, but I am willing to overlook it in a dead man's memoirs... but most will not be so charitable.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Walt

    RECEIVED FREE FROM GOOD READS FIRST READS. 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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Interesting history of one of my favorite mathematician's lives, but not enough math theory for my taste. Reading about his experiences as a young Jew during WW2 and his friendships with other mathematicians were highlights. 3.5 stars. Interesting history of one of my favorite mathematician's lives, but not enough math theory for my taste. Reading about his experiences as a young Jew during WW2 and his friendships with other mathematicians were highlights. 3.5 stars.

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