The Calculus Controversy

Jason Derulo By Jason Derulo, 17th Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Numbers And Maths

Sometimes life is not fair. People don't get what they deserve. We will be reviewing one such incidence between two great mathematicians: Sir Isaac Newton & Gotfreid Wilhelm von Leibniz.

My Opinion

It was a messy affair that began festering in 1669 and exploded in 1711. In my opinion, it was a retrogative affair, involving past occurrences.

How it all began

At the age of 23, Newton had begun to develop an aspect of mathematics called Calculus ( which he named the Science of Fluxions and Fluents), in 1666. He, however made a ghastly mistake,which led to the whole dispute many years later: he did not make his work known to the mathematical community until decades later.
Leibniz, in contrast, began his work in 1674,and published his work in 1684, years before Newton.
Now, one would expect the last days of one's life to be peaceful, but this was not so for Leibniz.

The Controversy

Leibniz spent his last years in a conflict with Newton. The bone of contention: who was the original creator of calculus? Had Leibniz really discovered calculus on his own, or had he based his work on ideas that fundamentally belonged to Newton?
Now, let us do our own analysis of the whole affair.
There was no proof that Newton had already developed his method of fluxions by the time Leibniz began his work on calculus, since his manuscripts only came to light after his death. He made such a claim to being able to calculate tangents and curves, but by the time he explained the method, Leibniz's published work had gone a-plenty.
In contrast, Leibniz had made serious use of his differential calculus not later than 1675. He even published his work in 1684, 9 good years before Newton.

Proof (A)

Before we enact judgement, let us have a look at the circumstances and evidence for and against both sides, Leibniz in particular ( since he is the suspect under the spotlights).
Evidence in favor of Leibniz are that he
a) always spoke of calculus as his own discovery. From this point of view, I'm guessing that Leibniz never mentioned the word " Fluxions". This claim of Leibniz's went undisputed for some time, probably because Newton wasn't ready to publish any thing pertaining to calculus.
b) gave a step-by-step description of his method of calculus
c) is verified by his private papers to have given calculus a different approach from Newton's. An instance is his starting with integration while Newton began with differentiation.

Proof (B)

The evidence (or more appropriately, accusations) against Leibniz go thus:
a) That he was privy to and gained access to Newton's papers on calculus not later than 1677.
b) He obtained valuable clues to unraveling the mysteries of calculus from those papers. The superiority of his differential notation holds no weight. After all, in order to steal someone else' item, he would have to create a new packaging.
c)He altered the content of important documents and falsified dates on manuscripts and letters before publishing.


In sequence of the first claim against Leibniz, extracts from Newton's De Analysi Per Equationes Numero Terminorum Infinitas were found among Leibniz' private papers and manuscripts in his (Leibniz's) writing, along with expressions of their content in Leibniz's differential notation. This lends strong credence to that accusation.
Later, Leibniz himself confessed in a letter to a friend that he had indeed come in contact with Newton's papers, but he also claimed that the papers were of little or no value to his work.


In the end, the Royal Society enacted judgment.
Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz were to share the glory of the progenitor of calculus.
However, every one has a right to opinion. What do you think? Was the Royal Society been fair in its judgment?


About Leibniz, About Newton

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author avatar Utah Jay
2nd Feb 2015 (#)

Very interesting.

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author avatar Jason Derulo
4th Feb 2015 (#)

Yeah, isn't it?

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
24th May 2015 (#)

In the absence of incontrovertible proof, it is better to share the honors. Interesting take, thanks - siva

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author avatar Jason Derulo
4th Aug 2015 (#)


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