His mother was a doctor who was concern her son would get sick in the epidemics, so he chose to school him at home. His unemployed uncle taught him, and he had many strong ideas about not liking rote learning: " He...avoided teaching me the alphabet and multiplication tables (even today they give me trouble). Most of the time we played chess and read maps." Today he still says he doesn't know his multiplication tables past fives.
But despite a disdain for conventional rote learning, this flash-from-the-past's uncle encouraged him to read and "pay attention to miscellaneous facts." His approach to learning was transdisciplinary, but this also had its toll on goal-directed learning and project completion.
"Every so often I was seized by the sudden urge to drop a field right in the middle of writing a paper, and to grab a new research interest in a field about which I knew nothing. I followed my instincts, but could not account for them until much, much later. "
Who was this?
None other than Benoit Mandlebrot, father of fractals and chaos theory in science mathematics, and economics.
Could any budding Mandlebrot's today able to be so omnivorous and transdisciplinary in their education?
Not surprisingly, not everyone could see with his broad brush: "Still, I remained an outsider in every field I worked in, and just couldn't get my interdisciplinary and philosophical views accepted. For instance, while working on economics, I was dying to mention that my methods were also pertinent to physics, but the referees of my papers told me to remove this broader philosophy. Later, when I studied turbulence (which, because of its unpredictability, resembled the stock market), my broader comments were again removed, and many papers were totally rejected."
Mandlebrot is a great example of an accomplished right hemispheric thinker - driven by intuitive search for connections, finding simple principles in complex material, trandisciplinary, and analogical. We do not know whether he may have been a stealth dyslexic, but his talent set would fit neatly (as would his weakness with rote mathematics and the alphabet). Today he says he isn't able to use a telephone book because he can't remember the alphabet.
Mandlebrot: Fruits of a wandering spirit
Fractals in Nature
Wikipedia: picture of Mandlebrot set
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Cross-disciplinary thinking
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Complex Thinkers
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Problem solving by insight
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Easy and hard problem solving