Guest blog post from Real Science

Isaac Newton was an English scientist, mathematician, physicist and astronomer, who was widely known as one of the most influential scientists of all times, especially during the scientific revolution. Born with no “real” parents, Isaac Newton had a very depressing childhood.

Picture of Isaac Newton from

Newton’s father died before he was born, and his mother married a wealthy clergyman, named Barnabas Smith. She then went to live with her newlywed husband at another village, leaving her young Newton with his grandparents. Years later,when Newton was around age 15, Newton’s education was interrupted by his “mother” who wanted Newton to become a farmer. But fortunately for Newton, he failed at farming and the continued his education, and later on went to college at Cambridge University. 8 years later, one of Newton’s greatest rivals challenged Newton in the battle for calculus. The  German mathematician named Gottfried Leibniz , who discovered a version of calculus, published it, calling it, “Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis,” or “A New Method for Maximas and Minimas.” He not only made this discovery, but he also invented binary, the way that modern electronics store data through a pattern of 0s and 1s. He contrived of the theory of everything, called the monontology.

Portrait of Gottfried Leibniz from

Leibniz also created modern formal of logic. Leibniz expected the discoveries through the metaphysical theory of dynamism. So this opponent, Gottfried Leibniz, was not some intellectual slouch that happened to discover calculus. But what Gottfried Leibniz didn’t know was that Isaac Newton, 8 years before the discovery of Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis”, discovered calculus. When Isaac Newton learned about Leibniz’s calculus discovery, he was outraged. Because of this outrage, Newton went out on a 17th century smear campaign, to tarnish the reputation of Gottfried Leibniz and prove that he was the one who discovered calculus. Newton said that they have exchanged ideas on mathematics. Newton gave his first ideas on calculus, including the binomial theorem, tangents, and fluxions. He also had many colleagues that were in a way connected with Leibniz. Newton believed that some of his colleagues brought Newton’s unpublished idea to Leibniz, allowing him to plagiarize the idea and take all the credit for it. Leibniz’s mathematician friend, Johann Bernoulli, sent a letter to Isaac Newton trying to defend Leibniz’s credibility, but Newton pressured Bernoulli into taking back his statements. An interview with Simon Schaffer, a professor at Cambridge university, explains another reason why Newton was needy to win this battle. Schaffer stated,” …the question is also how do you judge that someone has made an invention, and Newton’s notorious unwillingness to enter print, especially in the 1670s, makes that kind of conflict inevitable, so that from the early 1700s onwards, Newton and his allies are not just defending Newton’s priorities, but also a set of rules about judging priority that many of the Leibnizians deny.” This quote explains that Newton felt compelled to get into this giant argument, not only for himself, but for the priority of judging, that the supporters of Leibniz didn’t like because the battle for calculus goes against them. And that is what happened indeed. The battle for calculus was for sure a very long battle, but it shortly ended in 1693, when Newton finally published his version of calculus, calling it “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” or “The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy,” which got the attention of the British Royal Society. He then used the British Royal Society to wash up Leibniz’s story.

– Real Science

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