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leibniz

Life and work

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz...

Leibniz Portrait...was born on the 21st June (1st July according to The Gregorian Calendar) 1646 in Leipzig as son of Friedrich Leibniz, professor of moral philosophy. After attending school at the 'Nicolaischule' in Leipzig he studied philosophy and jurisprudence at the universities of Leipzig and Jena. In 1667 he obtained the legal degree of doctor at the University of Altdorf. He declined the offer of a professorship. In an effort to work not only theoretically but also to develop practical activity (his motto was: theoria cum praxi), he chose the position of a privy counsellor which, in the period of absolutism offered the best possibility to exercise political influence. He first entered the service of the Elector of Mainz, Johann Philipp von Schönborn. In 1672 he arrived in Paris on a diplomatic mission where he spent four influential years; there for the first time he was able to surpass the borders of contemporary German university education and to become familiar with the most recent developments in the sciences.

In 1673 he presented the Royal Society of London with a model of his calculating machine, which was the first of its kind with a mechanical facility for, not only addition and subtraction, but also multiplication and division. In the years that followed he developed the differential and integral calculus in Paris. For financial reasons he left Paris in 1676 to become counsellor andcalculating machine librarian of duke Johann Friedrich in Hannover. He maintained contact with the learned world through extensive correspondence (1100 correspondents). In the years between 1680 and 1685 Leibniz attempted to drain the mines in the Harz mountains using windmills and accordingly to stabilize the silver production for the duchy. On about 30 occasions he travelled to the Harz horizontal windmillmountains spending a total of about three years there, only to be frustrated in the end by technical difficulties and the resistance of the miners set in their traditional ways. On being commissioned by the duke, he worked from 1685 on a history of the house of Guelphs, that sought to reinforce its own importance in historiographical terms in the context of efforts for political advancement (promotion to an electorate of the Empire in 1692). Leibniz's extensive investigations, including a research tour from 1687 to 1690 to study archives in southern Germany, Austria and Italy in which he established the northern Italian roots of the Guelphs, additionally provided - in a period of dynastic succession settlements - legal support for the political claims of the house to extension of its ruled territories. As a prefatory contribution to the history of Guelphs Leibniz wrote a natural history of the earth paying special attention to geological discoveries in the Harz region.

In the year 1686 Leibniz developed his dynamics on the basis of the conservation of force (in modern terminology: energy) as a theory of physical forces. Likewise in 1686 he wrote the Discours de Metaphysique (Metaphysical essay), being the first systematic summary of his mature philosophy. Over many years Leibniz carried on negotiations with Catholic bishops with the objective of reuniting the Protestant and Catholic churches. His interest in foreign cultures motivated him to undertake an extensive correspondence with Jesuit missionaries in China.

In connection with his historical studies Leibniz carried out extensive linguistic investigations which were published in the Collectanea etymologica and elsewhere. In Germany as a rule French was spoken at court, and Latin by scholars; accordingly Leibniz wrote his philosophical and scholarly works almost exclusively in these languages. But he also wrote Ermahnung an die Teutschen, ihren Verstand und ihre Sprache besser zu üben in which he pleaded for use of the German language.

In the 1690s a series of mathematical competitions attracted the attention of scholars. Leibniz, Jacob Bernoulli, Vincenzo Viviani, and Johann Bernoulli,among others, formulated famous challenge questions in order to demonstrate the superiority of their mathematical methods.

In a paper for the Académie des Sciences in Paris Leibniz set out the binary number system based on 0 and 1; although never binary number system executed, the first calculating machine based on this binary number system was also conceived by him. In the year 1700 he became the first president of the Berlin Academy of Sciences which had been founded following his proposal. From the philosophical conversations, that he had during his visits to Berlin with the Prussian queen Sophia. Charlotte, developed the Theodicée (published in 1710) in which Leibniz attempted a justification of God in the light of the evil and suffering in the world. In the context of his discussion of the ideas of the English philosopher John Locke Leibniz composed the Nouveaux Essais sur l'entendement humain (New essays concerning human understanding), which however only appeared in print half a century after his death. The last years of his life were overshadowed by the priority dispute with Isaac Newton about the discovery of the differential and integral calculus. Leibniz died on November 14, 1716 in Hannover; his grave is located in the municipal church, Neustädter Kirche. His extensive scholarly manuscript-paper collection, preserved at the State Library of Lower Saxony Hannover, has still to be published in its entirety.

Unterschrift von G.W.Leibniz

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