Prof. Mitchell J. Jay Feigenbaum

Dec 19, 1944 — Jun 30, 2019

Prof. Mitchell J. Feigenbaum of New York, an award-winning physicist, passed away on June 30, 2019 at the age of 74. He spent the early stages of his career at Cornell University and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute before taking a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he made his first major scientific breakthroughs. He joined the Rockefeller University in 1987, and served as a Toyota Professor at Rockefeller for over 30 years.

Prof. Feigenbaum was widely known as one of the founders of chaos theory, a mathematical theory that attempts to explain erratic dynamical systems – objects with unpredictable behavior and an attendant fractal geometry. He spent his career developing a full, precise mathematical description of systems during their transition from order to disorder, and was the first to discover that many different physical systems follow a common “periodic doubling” path to chaos. Prof. Feigenbaum also demonstrated that all phenomena that behave according to the chaos theory exhibit a constant number that determines the rate of onset – a number named “Feigenbaum’s constant” in his honor.

For his immense contribution to science, Prof. Feigenbaum was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Award in 1983 and the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1986, among numerous other prestigious honors. He served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and later the International Board, consecutively since 1999, and was a member of the Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee from 1999 until 2008.

We send our profound condolences to Mitchell’s stepsons, Kiril and Sasha, his brother Edward, and his sister Glenda, as well as the rest of his family and loved ones.