Orderly Obituary –
July 2, 2019 – Mitchell J. Feigenbaum, a mathematical physicist whose groundbreaking work on deterministic chaos influenced fields ranging from cardiology to cartography, died in New York City on June 30 at the age of 74. Feigenbaum was the Toyota Professor and director of the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology at Rockefeller. Among his many accomplishments, he was the first to discover that many different physical systems follow a common “periodic doubling” path to chaos, paving the way for the emergence of the discipline known today as chaos theory.
In physics and mathematics, deterministic chaos denotes behavior so complex and unpredictable that it appears to be random; but in fact, it is the consequence of so-called deterministic nonlinear equations, for which the present situation exactly predicts the future behavior. The subtlety of chaos means that the slightest change in the present situation produces enormous changes in the subsequent behavior, and thus the long-range future is unpredictable. Phenomena such as turbulence in fluids, including weather, obey equations that are predictable for short times but not for long ones, as small perturbations magnify rapidly.