Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Leibniz Picture

Gottfried W. Leibniz, a remarkable and revolutionary mathematician and philosopher, who is accredited as the founder of infinitesimal calculus and the use of modern calculators, was born on July 1, 1646, in Leipzig, Germany. He came from an educated family, and his father was a lecturer of moral philosophy. Leibniz attended the Nicolai School in Leipzig, where his father taught him History. By the age of twelve, Gottfried was fluent in Latin, and had already begun training in Greek. He showed significant interest in the study of logic, and began exploring its doctrines by educating himself in the works of Protestant and Scholastic theologians. At the age of 15, Leibniz was accepted at the University of Leipzig, where he pursued a law degree. Soon, his interests were piqued by philosophy, and he began studying philosophy under the tutelage of a renowned Neo-Aristotelian, Jakob Thomasius, who is often accredited as the founder of German historical philosophy. During his time at the University of Leipzig, Gottfried encountered various modern philosophers, thinkers and revolutionists, and this interaction benefited his thinking immensely.

In 1663, he decided to study Mathematics, and hence, he began attending the lectures of an esteemed mathematician, E. Weigel, in Paris. However, he soon returned to studying law, and devoted himself to his studies for the next three years. In 1666, applied for a Post-doctoral degree at the University of Leipzig, however, his request was turned down as he was considered as too young. Gottfried was extremely let down, and he decided to join the University of Altdorf to enrol in a doctoral programme. In 1666, Leibniz received his Ph.D. in Law, along with his practice license, his thesis was entitled “Disputatio Inauguralis De Casibus Perplexis in Jure”. He was offered an academic position at the University of Altdorf, which he declined, as he had different things planned in his mind.

By the age of twenty one, Leibnitz had published a few essays that began to garner him acclaim for his remarkable comprehension of historical methodologies implemented in legalities and his replication of Corpus Juris. Gottfried’s fortunate encounter with Christian von Boyneburg is credited for the start of his professional career, Boyneburg appointed him as his assistant. While working for Boyneburg, he was introduced to the Elector of Mainz. Leibniz presented the Elector with an essay that he had penned, impressed by his work, he was commissioned to work on the redrafting of ‘The Legal Code’ for the Electorate. In 1669, Leibniz was selected for the position of Assessor in the Court of Appeal. He remained in Boyneburg’s employment till 1672, and upon his death, he continued to work for his widow for the next two years.

In 1672, Gottfried Leibniz composed and published his much discussed and praised work, ‘Thoughts of Public Safety’, where he discussed the ambitions and limitations of European powers, particularly the safety of Germany and the need for the formation of new Rheinbund to bind all Europeans in to a peaceful accord. He further encouraged the European powers, particularly France, to turn their attentions towards the unexplored lands of Egypt, and to acquire the lands of the Pagan world. In 1672, French Secretary of State, Simon Arnauld de Pomponne, invited him to Paris, the political and educational developments of France impressed him deeply. During his stay at Mainz, Gottfried was engrossed in the exploration of correlation between the old and new methodologies of philosophy, and after consultations with Jakob Thomasius, he began designing his calculating machine that would be used to perform the operations of multiplication, addition, subtraction, division and root extraction. The device was exhibited at the Academy of Paris, and later, it was presented to the Royal Society of London. In 1673, he was elected as a fellow at the Royal Society of London.

In 1676, Leibniz was invited to Hanover, where he stayed to serve the House of Brunswick as a political advisor, librarian and historian, under the rule of three kings, for the next forty years. During these years, Leibniz engaged himself in the study of logic, philosophy, physics, mathematics and calculus, and produced several works on historical, political and theological aspects. In 1674, he devoted himself to perfecting his theories on calculus and over the next three years, he developed a coherent system, which he did not publish until 1684. In 1682, Leibniz became a regular contributor to various journals and his work was applauded for his scientific and mathematical prowess. In 1687, he was commissioned by Elector Ernest Augustus to compose the history of the House of Brunswick, and thus, Leibniz began traveling to Germany, Italy and Austria in search of relevant documents to aid his project, over the course of the next three years.

In 1708, Leibniz was charged by John Keil to have deliberately plagiarized Newton’s work, and this brought his career and achievements in the midst of several controversies. However, Leibniz continued with his theological and philosophical endeavours unfazed and went on to produce several more momentum works on mathematics, history, law, politics and science. His health began to deteriorate, and he passed away on November 14, 1716. Gottfried Leibniz’s work has played an extremely pivotal role in laying down the foundation of the digital computers, similarly his evolutionary theories on the mathematical concepts of differentiation and integration have also enhanced the academic resources of engineering and mechanics.

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