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Family background and early education
Benoît Mandelbrot Mathematician
Next Views Duration
1. Family background and early education 5991 04:10
2. School 1495 01:06
3. Move from Poland to France; High School 1163 04:05
4. War; move to Correze and continued education 767 02:40
5. The Occupation of France 761 03:52
6. Return to education - thinking in pictures 1120 04:23
7. Preparation for exams - Monsieur Croissal 826 04:47
8. Drawing; the ability to think in pictures and its continued influence 1247 03:27
9. Lyon during the occupation 505 01:38
10. Raising horses 486 02:40
11. 'Cheating' in the exams 1304 02:30
12. Uncle and Father 475 05:40
13. Mathematical disagreements with Uncle 633 04:16
14. Family pressure 375 03:05
15. Influences: Father and Uncle 400 04:29
16. École Normale and thought in mathematics 608 03:34
17. The world of learning how 546 03:51
18. The organisation of École Polytechnique; Paul Levy 498 05:18
19. Gaston Maurice Julia 476 02:02
20. Leprince-Ringuet and experimental physics 374 01:27
21. École Polytechnique 417 02:33
22. The decision to go to Caltech: Braue and Von Karman 472 03:35
23. Caltech 504 03:05
24. The decision not to go into physics 512 01:25
25. Two years at Caltech: Wiener and Delbruck 465 01:44
26. Turbulence: Kolmogorov, Nabukov, Heisenberg, Weizsäcker and Onsager 705 02:04
27. Delbruck 404 02:28
28. Contact with biologists at Caltech 331 02:20
29. Leaving Caltech; crisis over future 406 03:56
30. Return to France and the Air Force - a year of thinking 344 01:45
31. Work with Philips: spectral analysis and colour televisions 379 03:55
32. Power-Law Distribution 653 05:37
33. A forgotten paper 426 00:56
34. Ph.D. Thesis 572 06:19
35. My big fight with my uncle 442 01:33
36. Post-doctoral studies: Weiner and Von Neumann 677 04:45
37. A lecture for Von Neumann and Oppenheimer 774 05:15
38. A touching gesture by Von Neumann 783 02:44
39. Move to Geneva to work with Jean Piaget 419 04:44
40. Further work on the Power-Law Distribution 378 06:29
41. Work on thermodynamics in Geneva 379 03:05
42. Return to France and disillusionment with mathematics in France 418 03:16
43. The invitation from IBM 400 01:03
44. IBM: background and policies 564 06:50
45. IBM's unique position 349 02:16
46. Early computers 367 01:58
47. Work at IBM: randomness - background 384 05:43
48. The importance of infinite variance 386 02:10
49. Fixed points 326 04:37
50. Errors of transmission in telephone channels 324 05:19
51. Results of work in errors of transmission 243 02:14
52. Robert Stewart and a return to an interest in turbulence 266 03:15
53. The Hausdorff Dimension 445 02:41
54. The birth of fractals (Part 1) 664 03:07
55. The birth of Fractals (Part 2) 452 03:57
56. The River Nile and Infinite Systems 351 03:22
57. Wild randomness and globality 311 03:06
58. Self-organised criticality 287 01:43
59. Measuring roughness 263 03:02
60. Working 'before the limit' 254 03:32
61. Writing and publishing work on rivers 248 05:20
62. Self-affining and self-similar fractals 246 02:43
63. Geometry; coming home to pictures 262 04:13
64. Origins and publication of Fractal Objects (Part 1) 245 04:32
65. Origins and publication of Fractal Objects (Part 2) 206 04:12
66. Commonality of structure 198 01:11
67. Fractals and the importance of proper description (Part 1) 1030 03:13
68. Fractals and the importance of proper description (Part 2) 321 05:54
69. Self-similarity 264 03:53
70. Cartoons 290 02:15
71. Self-affining variability 160 03:16
72. Pathological shapes 203 01:59
73. Iteration; background to the work of Fatou and Julia 195 05:14
74. Fatou and Julia 199 01:32
75. The theory of Fatou and Julia 193 04:09
76. First reading of the work of Fatou and Julia 168 02:23
77. Return to iteration in 1977: Hadamard, Poincaré and Kleinian groups 161 02:48
78. Solving the problem of limit sets (Part 1) 209 05:11
79. Solving the problem of limit sets (Part 2) 146 03:22
80. Imitation of nature and creation of shapes 178 03:03
81. Beginning to work on the problems of Julia and Fatou 156 03:42
82. Julia sets 166 02:33
83. Development of the Mandelbrot set; 'dirt' in the picture 236 03:57
84. The first conjecture of the Mandelbrot set 217 05:31
85. The haunting beauty in both the Julia set and Mandelbrot set 238 01:16
86. The Mandelbrot set and fractals 561 01:42
87. The branching structure of Mandelbrot sets 195 02:53
88. Brownian motion and the four-thirds conjecture 300 06:06
89. The four-thirds conjecture and proof that mathematics is still alive 203 03:26
90. Multifractals 187 05:35
91. Meeting at Courchevel (Part 1) 124 02:46
92. Meeting at Courchevel (Part 2) 116 03:36
93. Background to chaos and wild randomness: Galileo, Newton, Laplace 204 03:13
94. The twentieth century - predictability 178 01:25
95. Background to work in mathematics, physics, economics and finance 193 01:10
96. The butterfly effect 307 02:15
97. Fractals as a tool to represent nature 219 04:51
98. 1/f noise, rivers and turbulence 323 06:01
99. A new geometry of nature 180 01:50
100. Lewis Fry Richardson and Leonardo da Vinci 235 04:08
101. Development of work with turbulence and multifractals 151 04:44
102. White noise and fixed points 180 03:58
103. IBM and the educational system 189 02:10
104. Critical opalescence, Onsager and work in physics 229 04:28
105. Percolation 143 05:03
106. Diffusion limit aggregates 131 03:21
107. The complicated nature of DLA 112 02:14
108. Fractals and the distribution of galaxies 209 05:52
109. Fractality and the end of regularity 131 02:05
110. Fractals and rules 317 01:28
111. Fractals and chaos theory 239 04:04
112. A new alphabet 162 01:19
113. Dimension 137 03:06
114. The inevitability of mathematical development 181 04:35
115. Fractals and chaos theory in mathematical development 159 05:04
116. Economics: Pareto and Bachelier 192 02:22
117. Pareto law and inequality in income distribution 240 04:25
118. Distribution of income in big samples 106 03:17
119. Distribution of price change 101 06:17
120. Inequality in price change distribution 70 03:04
121. First price change distribution model 73 01:53
122. Value at risk 110 01:46
123. Reaction to work in price change 69 04:36
124. Boom and bust; October 19th 1987 87 03:42
125. Interaction between work in physics and economics (Part 1) 79 03:35
126. Interaction between work in physics and economics (Part 2) 61 03:43
127. Inequality and finance; differences between Bachelier and Mandelbrot 101 06:11
128. The importance of the eye 84 02:46
129. Cartoons and forgeries 68 05:05
130. Interactive procedure; the Deutschmark-Dollar exchange 47 04:38
131. The ability of the model to make predictions 110 02:59
132. Multifractal time as trading time 206 04:53
133. Hopes for fractals 75 00:37
134. IBM fellowship (Part 1) 70 01:07
135. IBM fellowship (Part 2) 52 02:40
136. Prizes 112 03:57
137. Marcel-Paul Schützenberger 81 03:15
138. Carleton Gajdusek and scientists whose interests span many fields 110 02:41
139. The uses of fractals 157 02:38
140. Fractals and beauty 91 02:21
141. The origin of fractals 181 02:01
142. Fractals in education (Part 1) 79 04:19
143. Fractals in education (Part 2) 44 03:18
144. The future for fractals 173 05:23
I was born in Warsaw on November 20th 1924. Before I tell you about my life I would like to tell you a little bit about my family. My mother was born in Lithuania and my father in Warsaw, but from a family that viewed itself as being from Vilnius, Lithuania, as well. In my mother's family a very strong figure was her grandfather who must have been born around 1820. As a young man he walked to Petersburg, and became in due time the manager of the properties of a major Russian nobleman. When he was a very old man, and my mother was a young girl, she was very pleased and surprised to have her grandfather received like the Prime Minister of the Emperor, which this man became. He came back home and established a family. One of the most striking features about him was that he decided early on that all his granddaughters were to become doctors. For this reason my mother became a doctor, and later became a dentist. Her sister was a doctor; in fact, almost everyone in the family, all the women in her family were doctors as well. On my father's side most of the men were scholars, they had, some had in fact no clear occupation, They were wise men who were supported by a group of faithful who worked for advice, leadership etc. My father however was from a different generation and became a businessman. My mother went to medical school before World War I. They had married shortly before, then they had a child, and during World War I had a very adventurous life because of all the different terrible things happening in Eastern Europe. At one time, they were in Krakówow during the Russian civil war with my uncle - my father's younger brother- who was to become a very important person in my life, was there as well as a student of mathematics. It sounds strange, but it was so; the civil war was raging but the mathematics department of the university was going on as if nothing were wrong. Shortly after World War I my parents lost their child in an epidemic, and then had two more sons: myself and a younger brother. This fact is important because my mother, as a doctor and a bereaved mother, had a great fear of epidemics. After a few years of very normal, very happy, problem-free childhood, the question arose: would she let me go to school? She was so afraid of epidemics that she didn't let me go to school. However, there was an uncle who was a very cultured man, but almost permanently unemployed, - life was very, very rough in Poland, who was hired to be my tutor. So for two years of learning reading and writing, counting and the alphabet, I was tutored by this man who was quite unskilled in the art of being a tutor or a teacher. He didn't think it was fun to teach me the alphabet, so I didn't learn it. At least I learnt the beginning and the end, but not the middle. He didn't think it was fun to teach me table multiplication, so I never learned - well, I know most of it but with glaring gaps. He taught me how to read maps, how to play chess, how to argue, how to hold opinions on various subjects which he felt strongly about and, all in all, it was quite a strange, strange, strange beginning to my education.

Benoît Mandelbrot (1924-2010) discovered his ability to think about mathematics in images while working with the French Resistance during the Second World War, and is famous for his work on fractal geometry - the maths of the shapes found in nature.

Listeners: Bernard Sapoval Daniel Zajdenweber

Bernard Sapoval is Research Director at C.N.R.S. Since 1983 his work has focused on the physics of fractals and irregular systems and structures and properties in general. The main themes are the fractal structure of diffusion fronts, the concept of percolation in a gradient, random walks in a probability gradient as a method to calculate the threshold of percolation in two dimensions, the concept of intercalation and invasion noise, observed, for example, in the absorbance of a liquid in a porous substance, prediction of the fractal dimension of certain corrosion figures, the possibility of increasing sharpness in fuzzy images by a numerical analysis using the concept of percolation in a gradient, calculation of the way a fractal model will respond to external stimulus and the correspondence between the electrochemical response of an irregular electrode and the absorbance of a membrane of the same geometry.

Daniel Zajdenweber is a Professor at the College of Economics, University of Paris.

Duration: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: May 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008

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