German polymath: mathematician, philosopher, theologian, and scientist (sort of). As mentioned by Pedro, his development of the differential and integral calculi is one of his greatest mathematical achievements. Newton also developed these calculi, but Leibnitz's notation is commonly considered superior to Newton's, which is why we write, for example, d/dx rather than x with a dot above it.

In philosophy, he made many important contributions. One of his major goals in philosophy was to provide a sound logical proof of the existence of God. To do this, he reintroduced the ontological argument, probably first formulated by Anselm and also developed by Descartes. In doing so, he introduced the notion of a possible world, which is still in use by analytic philosophers today. Additionally, he composed a monumental metaphysical work, The Monadology, which postulates a world composed of simple entities which he called monads. Each individual being is a monad, in this theory, even God. The world of monads is deterministic, everything having been set in pre-established harmony by God at the creation of the universe. (That God is a monad makes this concept quite puzzling but still interesting.)

In addition to his heavily theological philosophy, Leibnitz also looked for a way of creating a perfect logical language. This attempt, which was unsuccessful for him and just about everybody else who tried it, is known as Leibnitz's Dream.

Brief Chronology of Gottfried von Leibniz's Life

Born June 21 in Leipzig, son of Friedrich Leibniz (1597-1654), professor of moral philosophy at the University of Leipzig. Johannes Kepler, Francis Bacon and Galileo have all passed away in the past twenty years, and the Thirty Years War between France and Germany still rages. Issac Newton is at this time still three years old and Rene Descartes will die four years hence.

Leibniz's early education at the Nicolai School in Leipzig. Thomas Hobbes publishes his later edition of Leviathan (1653), a sprawling political analysis of the inner workings and economics of the state during the Age of Reason. Baruch Spinoza is excommunicated. The bubonic plague kills 15,000 in Rome alone in 1656.

Studies under Jacob Thomasius at the University of Leipzig; bachelor's thesis on scholastic theories of individuation (1663); attends lectures of Erhard Weigel at the University of Jena (summer 1663). Meanwhile, in London, the Royal Society is founded, being the first formal international association of scholars and scientists since Antiquity. In 1663, Leibniz receives his BA in Philosophy.

Legal studies in Leipzig; receives doctorate of law from University of Altdorf (1666); publication of On the Art of Combinations, also known as On the Combinatorial Arts (1666). Newton at the same time was developing his approach to differential and integral calculus, and a wicked plague swept through London, which is almost immediately followed up by the disastrous Fire of London and publication of Milton's Paradise Lost.

Resides in Nuremberg, Mainz, and Frankfurt; secretary to Johann Christian von Boineburg, minister to the elector of Mainz. Publishes A New Method of Learning, which proposes collecting abstracts for all new books published, beginning with those published by the varied Royal Societies and materials appearing from publishers at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. In 1669, Rembrandt dies and Baruch Spinoza (now being fully decried by the Church) publishes his Tractatus Theologico Politicus.

Letters to Thomas Hobbes, Arnauld; publication of the New Physical Hypothesis and A Theory of Abstract Motion.

Travels to Paris on diplomatic mission for the elector of Mainz; begins mathematical studies under Christian Huygens; first trip to England (1673), where he is elected to the Royal Society on the basis of his model of a four-function calculator machine. Meanwhile, French forces invade the Netherlands!

Leibniz's 'discovery' of the differential and integral calculus, independent of Newton.

Second trip to England; visits Baruch Spinoza at The Hague just before his death; enters service of Duke Johann Friedrich of Hanover as court librarian and legal advisor.

The fallout of the Popish Plot continues to spread throughout Europe. The death of Johann Friedrich, who is succeeded by his brother Ernst August; Leibniz becomes a trusted friend and correspondent of Ernst's wife, Sophie, and their daughter Sophie Charlotte, later Queen of Prussia. Leibniz publishes A Plan for a New Encyclopedia.

On a New Method for Maxima and Minima, first published account of the calculus. Also gets in a bit of a tiff with King Louis XIV after writing A Most Christian Mars which criticized the invasion of the Netherlands.

Composition of Discourse on Metaphysics.

Journey through Austria and Italy to research the history of the House of Brunswick; formulation of the science of dynamics. Meanwhile Alexander Pope is born in England, and the War of the League of Augsburg begins between the French and German princes. Locke publishes his Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Publication of Specimen dynamicum and New System of the Nature and Communication of Substances, and of the Union of the Soul and the Body. Leibniz is also appointed court librarian in Wolfenbuttel and Hanover by the Duke of Brunswick, therefore presiding over one of the finest examples of a semi-public library in Europe at the time. In 1692, Duke Ernst August becomes the ninth Elector of the Holy Roman Empire and the Bank of England is founded. In 1694, Voltaire is born.

Death of Ernst August, who is succeeded by his son Georg Ludwig; publication of On Nature Itself

Founding of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, with Leibniz as its first president. John Dryden dies.

The War of Spanish Succession is now underway. Composition of New Essays on Human Understanding, a commentary on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). In 1704, John Locke dies, Newton publishes his Optics and Jonathan Swift publishes his Tale of a Tub.

England and Scotland have just been united just three years previous and Samuel Johnson has just been born. Publication of Essays on Theodicy, Concerning the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil

The Treaty of Utrecht puts an end to the Spanish conflict. Leibniz works on the composition of The Monadology and Principles of Nature and of Grace; ascension of Georg Ludwig to the British throne as George I; Leibniz left in Hanover (after visiting Vienna) to complete his history of the House of Brunswick.

Leibniz dies in Hanover on November 14, 1716.

Voltaire publishes Candide, largely seen as a satire on Leibniz's thought.

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