Benoît Mandelbrot, the father of fractals, died Thursday at the age of 85. His obituary in the New York Times covers his life and work, and is also a well-written introduction to fractals. Mandelbrot's famous book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, was an inspiration to me in high school: that a simple question like "How Long Is The Coast of Britain" might have no simple answer was a revelation, and led me to study fractals for my honours thesis.
Amongst non-mathematicians, Mandlebrot is probably most famous for the fractal object that bears his name. You can generate the Mandelbrot Set yourself using R, as shown in this article.
New York Times: Benoit Mandelbrot, Mathematician, Dies at 85
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