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Icons of Progress

Fractal Geometry

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of IBMers. Meet two IBMers who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Benoit B. Mandelbrot 

    Benoit Mandelbrot
    “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules, repeated without end.”

    Born in 1924 in Warsaw, Poland, Benoit Mandelbrot moved to Paris in 1936 where he would come under the intellectual guidance of his mathematician uncle, Szolem Mandelbrojt. Mandelbrot skipped most of what is considered “college” but, nevertheless, went on to hold a number of positions in academia, including a stint at Princeton University under computing pioneer John von Neumann. In 1958, Mandelbrot accepted a research position at IBM, studying turbulence over telephone lines, which led to the eventual discovery of a new field in mathematics known as fractal geometry—a set of properties that allows mathematical exploration of the rough irregularities existing in nature. Fractal geometry has since influenced discoveries in biology, climate science, telecommunications, graphic design and finance. Benoit Mandelbrot was an IBM Fellow, a Sterling Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University, and recipient of the 1993 Wolf Prize for Physics and the 2003 Japan Prize for Science and Technology.

  • Richard F. Voss 

    Richard F. Voss Portrait
    “The mathematics of fractal geometry and the science of chaos are now bridging the gaps between math, science, art and culture.”

    A Minnesota native, Richard Voss received his bachelor of science degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his PhD in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. For many years he was a research staff member at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he collaborated closely with Dr. Benoit Mandelbrot and continued his research in condensed matter physics. His work has helped to promote the rapid adoption of fractal geometry as a useful mathematical language. The images that he has generated through the application of fractal geometry have appeared in books, magazines, television shows and IBM commercials. He has served as an adjunct professor at Yale University, creating a special undergraduate course in fractal geometry, and he is currently professor of complex systems and brain sciences at Florida Atlantic University.