SMPL begins reformatting of Benoit Mandelbrot audiovisual media

April 29, 2013
Michael Angeletti

This month marks the start of Stanford Media Preservation Lab's effort to reformat the audiovisual materials from the Benoit Mandelbrot collection. Over the course of the next month, SMPL will complete the project, making the materials available to researchers and patrons through SUL's Department of Special Collections.

Acquired at the beginning of 2012, the collection contains over 250 audio and video recordings that document Mandelbrot's work in creating the field of fractal geometry, as well as his application of fractal theory to other disciplines such as medicine, engineering and finance. Fine examples of fractal art are found throughout the collection, including live performances of fractal-inspired music by composer Charles Wuorinen, documentaries about the use of fractals in early computer generated imagery, and numerous pieces of unique video art. Recorded interviews with Mandelbrot shed light on his work in mathematics and describe his experiences at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Originally produced between 1974 and 1976, this video shows the first animated example of Mandelbrot's fractal theory of relief. The image was generated by an IBM S/360 and output to a cathode ray tube inside the Stromberg-Carlson SC-4020, one of the first recorders used for capturing computer animation on film.