Gottfried Leibniz was an illustrious 17th century German mathematician. He was a polymath who had expertise in multifarious areas of math. He also held a prominent position in the history of philosophy. He is credited for developing differential and integral calculus. He was recognized for introducing Transcendental Law of Homogeneity and the Law of Continuity. In addition to that his services to mathematics extend to the invention of working mechanical calculators based on Pascal’s designs.
Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz was born on July 1, 1646 in Leipzig, Holy Roman Empire toward the end of Thirty Year’s War. His father was a Professor of Moral Philosophy at Leipzig University who passed away six years after his birth. Hence all the responsibility of his brought up rested on his mother shoulders whose teachings shaped his philosophical thoughts. After his father’s death, Leibniz inherited his father’s personal library containing a variety of text on philosophical and theological works. Most of the text available was in Latin which enabled him to reach proficiency in that language at the young age of twelve. It is reported that one time for a school event, he wrote a Latin verse consisting of 300 hexameter in a single morning.
Reaching adolescence, Leibniz went to the same university his father taught at. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in December, 1662 and obtained a Master’s degree in 1664. The following year he was awarded a Law Degree upon completion of one year of legal studies. He published his first book in 1666 titled, De Arte Combinatoria which translates as On the Combinatorial Art. After his publication he tried earning a license and Doctorate in Law. However, his application was refused to study for a doctoral degree given his young age. Subsequently, he left Leipzig and applied for the University of Altdorf. Upon acceptance, he submitted a thesis in a very short period of time which he had probably worked on before he left Leipzig. In 1666, he earned his license to practice law following the reception of Doctorate in Law degree.
Leibniz was offered a position at Altdorf University which he declined as he felt he had a different calling. He had done several stints including as a secretary to an alchemical society. After a great deal of work in philosophy, Leibniz went to Paris in 1672 and there he met a notable Dutch mathematician, Christiaan Huygens. Staying in his company he realized that his own knowledge of physics and mathematics is limited and lacking. Under Huygens supervision, Leibniz studied mathematics and his self-study on the subject led to the development of the differential and integral calculus. He studied works of Pascal and Descartes and became friends with Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus, a great German mathematician. His most significant research papers on the subject of mathematics were published during 1682-92. He co-founded a scientific journal, Acta Eruditorum, in 1682 with Otto Mencke. It proved beneficial to elevate Leibniz’s position as a diplomat, philosopher, and a mathematician.
A scandalous situation arose in 1708 when the writer of the Royal Society’s journal, John Keill, accused Leibniz of plagiarizing Newton’s work in his development of calculus. Henceforth, began a dispute on the subject of who cheated the other’s idea. However, the historians acquitted Leibniz of such act as there were significant differences between the calculi discovered by the two mathematicians.