Wilhelm Leibniz

28.03.2015 |

Episode #4 of the course “Greatest Mathematicians”


Born into war-torn Germany in 1646, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz believed that human language was too vague and was the cause of conflict. He aimed to create a language made of symbols that would simplify and distill thoughts and emotions down to their core essence. His many published works spanned the subjects of law, economics, politics, theology, chemistry, physics, and architecture. He is most known, however, for his contributions in philosophy and mathematics.

Leibniz was born towards the end of the Thirty Years’ War in Leipzig, Germany. He was a very well educated, as evidenced by his many fields of publication. He also wrote in several languages but primarily in Latin, French, and German. Unfortunately, no complete collection of Leibniz’s writings exists. He died in Hanover, Germany in 1716.

He is also well-known for his advancements in logical computation, automated calculations, binary language, and artificial intelligence. He created the Leibniz Wheel, the engine of mechanical calculators that was used until the mid-1970s, more than 200 years after his death. His work on a reasoning machine also lay dormant for close to 200 years until it greatly impacted the field of artificial intelligence. His refinement of the binary system laid the foundation for all digital computers.

Leibniz’s most lasting contribution to the world, however, came from his co-invention of calculus, along with Isaac Newton. Although he was engaged in a lifelong dispute with John Keill, Newton, and others over whether Leibniz had invented calculus independently of Newton, most scholars now believe Leibniz had indeed developed calculus on his own. Additionally, Leibniz’s notation has also been widely used ever since it was published, and his Law of Continuity and Transcendental Law of Homogeneity found mathematical implementation in non-standard analysis.


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