Even though everybody who knows about even a little about fractal geometry, and especially about the Mandelbrot set, is also familiar with the name of Julia—since both of these sets are tightly interconnected—it seems little is known, generally speaking, about the life of the Julia set's conceptual father, Gaston Maurice Julia. This French character was born February the 3rd, 1893 in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria, then a northern African land under the dominion of France.
At a very young age (as many other men in many parts of the world at the beginning of the twentieth century), Julia was a soldier in the First World War. In a fierce combat during a "dark" winter, young Julia was severely wounded, and as a result, he lost his nose. Despite several surgical interventions to remedy the situation, he had to wear a leather strap across his face for the rest of his life.
During those hard times, Julia continued his researches in mathematics, and after the war, he became a distinguished mathematician. In 1918, at the age of 25, he published a 199-page article in the Journal de Mathematic Pure et Appliqué (pp. 47-245), "Mémoire sur l'itération des fonctions rationnelles", in which he discussed the iteration of a rational function, a topic that was also studied by another contemporary Frenchman, Pierre Joseph Louis Fatou—1878-1929—at the same time and in a similar way, but from different perspectives. In that article, Julia precisely described the set J(f) of those z in C for which the nth iterate fn(z) stays bounded as n tends to infinity. This work was so important that he received the Grand Prix de l'Académie des Sciences (France) and made him famous throughout most mathematics centers of his days (the Académie also recognized Fatou's contribution with a secondary award).
Notwithstanding that sudden fame, his work became almost forgotten, until many decades later Benoît B. Mandelbrot—years after his own days at the École Polytechnique in Paris, where Julia was professor of mathematics, and where he came in contact with Mémoires for the first time—brought it back to the forefront through his own renowned workings in what soon became to be known as fractal geometry.
Gaston Maurice Julia died in Paris the 19th day of March 1978 at the age of 85.