Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716, born in Leipzig, Sachsen) was a German polymath and philosopher. To this day, he occupies a prominent place in the history of math and philosophy. Most scholars believe he developed calculus independently of Isaac Newton – his notation has been widely used ever since it was published. He was the first mathematician to systematically employ negative numbers as part of a coherent mathematical system. Calculus made negative numbers necessary and their dismissal as “absurd numbers” quickly faded. It was only in the 20th century that his Law of Continuity and Transcendental Law of Homogeneity found mathematical implementation by means of non-standard analysis. He became one of the most prolific inventors in the field of mechanical calculators. While working on adding automatic multiplication and division to Pascal’s calculator, he was the first to describe a pinwheel calculator in 1685 and invented the Leibniz wheel. the first mass-produced mechanical calculator. He also refined the binary number system, which is the foundation of virtually all digital computers.
In philosophy, he’s most noted for his optimism, i.e., his conclusion that our Universe is, in a restricted sense, the best possible one that God could have created, an idea that was often lampooned by others such as Voltaire. Leibniz, along with René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, was one of the 3 great 17th century advocates of Rationalism. His work anticipated modern analysis and logic, but his philosophy also looks back to scholastic tradition, in which conclusions are produced by applying reason of first principles or prior definitions rather than to empirical evidence. He made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in philosophy, probability theory, biology, medicine, geology, psychology, linguistics, and computer science. He wrote works on philosophy, politics, law, ethics, theology, history, and philology. His contributions to this vast array of subjects were scattered in various learned journals, tens of thousands of letters, and unpublished manuscripts. He wrote in several languages – primarily in Latin, German, and French.