How applications of catastrophe theory outside mathematics stalled the theory, and why?

I know that the theory had its fair share of popularity during the 1970s, with many distinguished mathematicians working on it, for example Thom, Arnol'd, Whitney, etc. After being incorporated into applications outside mathematics the theory underwent a transformation into a stagnated field and lost much of its prestige, as some on the internet have put it. If this is the case then:

How did this phenomenon occur?

What were the mechanisms that led to stagnation and why mathematicians stopped working on the field? Did they feel that they were being invaded by "outsiders" or by people that did not understand the principles of the theory? Did they feel bad because the name of the theory was used to support outlandish results outside mathematics?

Where there just social reasons, (such as those mentioned above), for the exodus of mathematicians from the theory?

Moreover, I know nothing about catastrophe theory and its history. The subject of its "stalling" by being popular outside mathematics was brought up during a conversation, and it struck me in an odd way. So this is why I am asking those questions, mainly from a sociological point of view.

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    $\begingroup$ I haven't read this aspect of Catastrophe theory, but from personal recollection there was much talk at the time (for me, I specifically mean late 1970s to early 1980s) about how the subject was overly fashionable and trendy in popular and semi-popular literature. As the 1980s progressed, the trendiness shifted from Catastrophe theory to Chaos theory, then (probably a lot had to do with computer graphics being more available) in the late 1980s through the 1990s it was fractals. I've always thought the stagnation was with the popular trendiness, not with math research. $\endgroup$ Mar 28 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Whitney, not "Whittney" and by 1970s he was no longer active in that area (his book on complex analytic varieties published in 1972 was based mostly on the earlier work and is not directly related to the CT). $\endgroup$ Mar 28 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ As in other comments, I don't think "catastrophe theory was brought to its knees"... only that the popular press' hyping of it "ran out of gas". The mathematical ideas were-and-are valid and interesting. The fact that the popular press judges some bit of serious science one way or another is really not a serious judgement on that science. :) $\endgroup$ Mar 28 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ The trigger was the catastrophe controversy of late 1970s. Historically, "catastrophe theory" was the applicable side of the singularity theory in smooth families, which Zeeman promoted as a model generator for everything from market crashes to dog attacks and prison riots. As it turned out, he was playing fast and loose with his models, their novelty, and their confirmation, and much of it was questioned by Kolata, Sussmann and Zahler. Without the modeling "magic", singularity theory turned into a rather esoteric niche subject. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Mar 29 at 16:32


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