2002 William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement
Pioneering mathematician Benoit B. Mandelbrot, known as the creator of fractal geometry, is one of the few living mathematicians whose originality has given birth to entire disciplines. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1924. At the age of 11, he and his family emigrated to France, where his uncle, a professor of mathematics, took charge of his education, introducing him to a now famous mathematical paper by Gaston Maurice Julia. Put off by it at first, Mandelbrot came back to that paper nearly thirty years later while working with his own theories. In 1958, Mandelbrot moved to the United States and joined IBM, delving into processes with unusual statistical properties and geometric features. This eventually led to his famous contributions in fractal geometry. The concept has found applications in such diverse fields as physics, economics, the earth sciences and linguistics. The colorful symmetry of computer-generated fractal graphs has captured the imagination of artists, scientists and the public. Mandelbrot joined Yale University in 1987 and is now Sterling Professor of Mathematical Sciences. He is also IBM Fellow Emeritus in Physics at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. He was indicted into Sigma Xi in 1949 and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Among his books is the bestseller The Fractal Geometry of Nature. American Scientist cited his 1977 monograph Fractals among the top 100 scientific publications of the century.