The Calculus Wars: Newton, Leibniz, and the Greatest Mathematical Clash of All Time

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9781560257066: The Calculus Wars: Newton, Leibniz, and the Greatest Mathematical Clash of All Time
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Now regarded as the bane of many college students’ existence, calculus was one of the most important mathematical innovations of the seventeenth century. But a dispute over its discovery sewed the seeds of discontent between two of the greatest scientific giants of all time — Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

Today Newton and Leibniz are generally considered the twin independent inventors of calculus, and they are both credited with giving mathematics its greatest push forward since the time of the Greeks. Had they known each other under different circumstances, they might have been friends. But in their own lifetimes, the joint glory of calculus was not enough for either and each declared war against the other, openly and in secret.

This long and bitter dispute has been swept under the carpet by historians — perhaps because it reveals Newton and Leibniz in their worst light — but The Calculus Wars tells the full story in narrative form for the first time. This vibrant and gripping scientific potboiler ultimately exposes how these twin mathematical giants were brilliant, proud, at times mad and, in the end, completely human.

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About the Author:

Jason Socrates Bardi obtained graduate degrees in molecular biophysics (M.A., 1998) and science writing (M.A., 2001) from Johns Hopkins University, and has since worked as a professional science writer for a number of companies, government agencies, and private institutions. He spent a year as a writer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, five years as the senior science writer at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, and is currently a writer and editor at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

From Publishers Weekly:

Those interested in a lucid, nontechnical account of the battle between Isaac Newton (1642–1727) and German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) over who invented calculus will welcome science writer and debut author Bardi's cautionary tale. As early as 1665, Newton composed a manuscript detailing his method of calculus with examples, but after his unpleasant experience with a 1672 paper on optics that aroused the ire of Robert Hooke, an eminent member of the Royal Society who accused the younger man of plagiarism, Newton became shy of publishing. Between 1672 and 1676, Leibniz independently discovered calculus, using notation that has since become standard. When Leibniz published his results, Newton's allies rushed to discredit Leibniz in what developed, in Bardi's words, into "the greatest intellectual property debate of all time." While a few personal asides might better have been put in the preface, Bardi provides a timeless lesson about human pride as he describes the series of misunderstandings and miscommunications that led to the clash between these two great minds, "perhaps the greatest of their day." Illus. not seen by PW. (May 10)
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