I'm researching about fractals history and one of its main contributor and promoter Benoit Mandelbrot.

As far as I'm concerned, when he published his first book about this subject in 1975, he was severely criticized and questioned. Later, as he published more books and expanded this subject, he started to get accepted by most mathematicians.

Where could I find proofs about the first? For example, any book or science / math magazine of the time criticizing him (or similar).

  • $\begingroup$ Look for reviews of Mandelbrot's books, for example in JSTOR if you have access. Actually, even if you don't have access, you can still find the existence of reviews and their bibliographic information, and from this you can look them up in a university library. Also, you may want to look through the back issues of Notices of the American Mathematical Society (may have to visit a library for the older print volumes) and Mathematical Intelligencer. I've read more than one "not all that positive" commentary on the "Fractal's craze" over the years, maybe in the letters to the editor section. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2017 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ Mandelbrot himself made comments like this: When I would submit a paper to a physics journal with a Cantor set in it, they would reject it out-of-hand as "unphysical". $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2017 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveLRenfro I'll try to look in those places but I doubt I can have access to most of them. Gerald, that's an interesting quote, is it possible to know exactly where and when he said that? $\endgroup$
    – 78dtat78da
    Apr 18, 2017 at 15:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For statements by Mandelbrot about his difficulties, I suspect a good place to start is his 2014 published autobiography The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maveric. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2017 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ Hardly? Or heartily? Opposite meanings. $\endgroup$
    – user4894
    Apr 20, 2017 at 23:07

1 Answer 1


This may not be quite what you seek, but there is a good review of The Fractalist by Brian Hayes in The American Scientist (link). He mentions the "feud" with Herbert Simon:

What’s not so endearing is to see some of the supporting actors denied even a listing in the credits. For example, Mandelbrot carried on a bitter public feud with the economist and computer scientist Herbert Simon. For six years they traded critiques and replies, final notes and postscripts to final notes in the pages of Information and Control. The incident is mentioned in The Fractalist, but Simon goes unnamed; Mandelbrot refers to him as “a loud opponent of mine.” It could be worse, I suppose. Instead of ignoring Simon, Mandelbrot might have taken one last swipe at him—a postscript to the postscript.


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