Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. July 1, 1646 – November 14, 1716. A German philosopher, mathematician, mechanic, physicist, lawyer, historian and linguist. The founder and first president of the Berlin Academy of Sciences.


Life and Work:

1. Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics, once said: “If I were to choose a patron saint for cybernetics out of the history of science, I should have to choose Leibniz.” Why has a mathematician and physicist, philosopher and diplomat, linguist and lawyer earned the high honor of becoming a cybernetics icon? Because of the fact that he created the binary numeral system – this alpha and omega of the computation world.


2. The list of Leibniz’s scientific achievements does not end there. It is much longer, but we should start not with his list, but with his childhood: it is there where future scientific successes are rooted. Gottfried Wilhelm was born in 1646 into an educated family of a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Leipzig. His maternal grandfather was a famous scientist of his time, a professor of law.


3. The father immediately noticed that the boy was capable, so he actively undertook to develop the son’s talents. Leibniz later recalled that his father’s stories about history were the most vivid impressions of his childhood.


4. Leibniz’s father died early, but left his seven-year-old son a huge library. By the age of twelve, the talented boy reread everything he could understand, independently studied Latin and took up the Greek language.


5. Gottfried Leibniz studied at the famous St. Thomas School founded in Leipzig in the 13th century. He later wrote of his academic achievements: “Not only could I easily apply the rules to specific cases, which I alone was able to do among all my classmates to the astonishment of my teachers, but I also had doubts and carried already then new ideas which I wrote down in order not to forget them. What I wrote down at fourteen years of age I have read again afterwards and felt an extraordinary pleasure thereupon.”


6. At the age of fifteen, Gottfried Leibniz enrolled in the same University of Leipzig, where his father taught. Leibniz was a much stronger student than his peers who were older.


7. While attending courses at various universities, Leibniz studied the works of Kepler and Galileo, and contemporary law. In the same year 1666 he defended his thesis for the degree of Doctor of Law and wrote his essay “On the Combinatorial Art.” That year Leibniz was twenty years old.


8. Then Leibniz came up with the idea of the mathematization of logic – two hundred years ahead of his time.


9. While Gottfried Leibniz worked as an adviser to the Elector of Mainz in legal and commercial affairs, he designed a calculating machine, even better than that of Pascal – the machine was able to multiplied, divide and extract roots.


10. Leibniz became a member of the Royal Society of London and – in this rank – created mathematical analysis as a coherent science with symbols and terminology. Students exhausted by integral calculus classes slander that Leibniz once dropped an empty bucket into the sewer and had to wriggle so hard to take the bucket out that he came up with an integral. Well, let them do! Anyway, they have to learn this elongated S-shaped integral symbol, the first letter of the Latin “Summa” where the integral actually came from.


11. Leibniz spoke surprisingly succinctly and accurately about the differentials that he introduced saying that what a person versed in this calculus can get right in three lines, other learned men had to seek, following complex roundabout ways


12. Leibniz also left his mark in mechanics. He introduced the concept of “living force,” which corresponds to the modern concept of kinetic energy, and discovered the law of conservation of “living forces,” i.e., formulated the energy conservation law for the first time.


13. In addition to his native Berlin Academy, Leibniz helped create a couple of academies of sciences, for example, St. Petersburg. In any case, Peter the Great commissioned Leibniz to design projects for the development of education in Russia.


14. Leibniz expounded his philosophical and scientific ideas in countless letters to a thousand, without exaggeration, addressees in French, German and Latin.


15. His thoughts scattered in letters captivate with the accuracy of judgments and aphoristic nature. He reasoned about mathematics as a poet: “The imaginary numbers are a fine and wonderful refuge of the divine spirit almost an amphibian between being and non-being.”


16. Smart Leibniz believed that all human conflicts can be reduced to mathematics and logic. “Why fight?” he argues. “Let’s sit down and calculate.”


17. A metal medal was created in honor of the binary system. At the request of Leibniz, the medal has the following expression: “Omnibus ex nihilo ducendis sufficit unum” (In order to produce everything out of nothing one [thing] is sufficient.”


18. Leibniz conducted his scientific research while being a civil service figure. After the death of the Elector of Mainz in 1676, the scientist transferred to the service of Duke Ernest-August of Brunswick-Kahlenberg. There he simultaneously served as an adviser, historian, librarian and diplomat, and remained in this post until the end of his life.


19. Commissioned by the Duke, Leibniz began to work on the history of the Welf-Brunswick family. He had been working on it for over thirty years.


20. In his speech in memory of Leibniz to members of the Paris Academy of Sciences, Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle named him one of the greatest scientists and philosophers of all time. Denis Diderot noted in the Encyclopedia that Leibniz was for Germany what Plato, Aristotle, and Archimedes combined were to Ancient Greece.