I am looking for the origin of a quote found in a mathematics textbook and attributed to Mandelbrot.

I'm convinced that a math book we used in high school had this quote in it:

In order to simplify, one must complexify, i.e., see simple things in the complex plane.

The book, which looked like it was printed in the '90s, attributed this quote to Benoît Mandelbrot.
However, the Internet does not seems to have any mentions of this quote, and in particular not by Mandelbrot.

Now I wonder… has anyone heard of this quote or a variation of it? And could it have been said by Mandelbrot, perhaps in a talk or so?

My book was in Dutch but the quote itself was printed in English. The original quote might have been in a different language, perhaps French; however, I don't find any results either when looking for its translated keywords.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ May be better asked at History of Science and Mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – user1082389
    Jul 18, 2022 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @BeKind Thank you; will try that! $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2022 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ There's a famous quote by Hadamard that might be what you were thinking of: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/61913/… $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2022 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ books.google.com shows this phrase used on page 905 of "Deciphering the Chemical Code: Bonding Across the Periodic Table" by N. D. Epiotis, but it's part of the phrase reconfirming the motto of the mathematician : " To simplify , one must complexify . The book was published in 1996. $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2022 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ Correction: Mandelbrot quotes this as "a favorite saying of Gaston Julia" $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2022 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


I'm going to deviate from my usual policy of never answering a question because I can't "really" post images in comments, and complex google searches may yield different results for different people.

The answer: Gaston Julia

The link: https://www.google.com/search?q=gaston+julia+%22complexify%22+simplify&newwindow=1&tbm=bks&ei=IILVYtXxBYyG0PEPpty-uAw&ved=0ahUKEwjVgbmG5oL5AhUMAzQIHSauD8cQ4dUDCAk&uact=5&oq=gaston+julia+%22complexify%22+simplify&gs_lcp=Cg1nd3Mtd2l6LWJvb2tzEANQ2AdY9xZgmhpoAHAAeACAAVyIAfgBkgEBM5gBAKABAcABAQ&sclient=gws-wiz-books

The screenshot:

enter image description here

As https://www.google.com/search?newwindow=1&hl=en&q=inauthor:%22Gaston+Julia%22&tbm=bks notes, Julia wrote almost entirely in French, so the expression was most likely translated to English. To find an original source, you might have to change the search terms.


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