Mandelbrot’s The Fractalist, Chapter 19: In Geneva with Jean Piaget, Mark Kac, and Willy Feller, 1955–57

Mandelbrot was able to assist Piaget’s early work to transform the study of human behavior and human development and also learn from him how to take his own ideas farther.

Best Quote(s)

“… Jean Piaget (1896–1980). He was pleased to hear that I was aware of his fame in trying to bring rationality to child psychology.”

Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractalist Chapter 19

The number of brilliant minds that Mandelbrot was able to connect with was staggering. Piaget is one of many who was the founder of a major modern field of science.

Piaget, “He promptly changed fields and set out on a lifelong effort to extend proper scientific principles to human behavior.”

Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractalist, Chapter 19

Before Piaget, the use of data, analytics and rigor was weak in human development. Mandelbrot was to take this same approach to a theory of roughness.

“… telling me that, instead of more papers that looked unrelated, I must write a book.”

Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractalist, Chapter 19

Mandelbrot put himself near so many people with great skill and was able to position them as coaches and make use of their advice.

Page by Page

2896

Piaget

“One day when I had to stop by on some administrative business, a spry but elderly looking gentleman breezed in and asked the secretary where and when he could find me. Having found me quite easily, he introduced himself as Jean Piaget (1896–1980). He was pleased to hear that I was aware of his fame in trying to bring rationality to child psychology.”

2907

“His Ph.D.—earned when he was twenty—concerned mountain snails and familiarized him with the scientific practices of zoology.”

“He promptly changed fields and set out on a lifelong effort to extend proper scientific principles to human behavior.”

2912

“It soon became clear that—until that moment—he had never heard the words “I do not quite understand. Please explain.””

2923

“Science is best at giving credit for thinking big, but not too big.”

“I admired Piaget’s ambition to become the Kepler of psychology—but not his expectation that, with my help, a year or two would suffice.”

2940

“Our turbulent childhoods made us react very differently. He gained high respect for order and fear of anarchy. One day when we were chatting after a lecture, another attendee came up and expressed delight at seeing two mavericks together. Smiling as usual, Kac responded: “Benoit is a true maverick, but I am not one in the least. I am a staunch conservative who tries to act intelligently.””

“… telling me that, instead of more papers that looked unrelated, I must write a book.”

2957

William Feller (1906–70)

“In a published interview, he described as fraudulent the idea that the famed bell curve of mathematical errors ever represents anything real.”

“Probability saved his career and made him rich, but it was never a true love.”

2963

“This made my IBM manager very unhappy, and to save myself, I had to exhibit Feller’s infamous article about the bell curve and thermal noise.”

About flybrand1976

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1 Response to Mandelbrot’s The Fractalist, Chapter 19: In Geneva with Jean Piaget, Mark Kac, and Willy Feller, 1955–57

  1. Pingback: Mandelbrot Part 2: Chapters 8 – 20, “My Long and Meandering Education in Science and in Life” | Fred Lybrand

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