History of calculus
Calculus, historically known as infinitesimal calculus, is a mathematical discipline focused on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. Ideas leading up to the notions of function, derivative, and integral were developed throughout the 17th century, but the decisive step was made by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. Publication of Newton's main treatises took many years, whereas Leibniz published first (Nova methodus, 1684) and the whole subject was subsequently marred by a priority dispute between the two inventors of calculus.
- 1 Precursors of calculus
- 2 Pioneers of modern calculus
- 3 Newton and Leibniz
- 4 Integrals
- 5 Symbolic methods
- 6 Calculus of variations
- 7 Applications
- 8 Non-European antecedents of the calculus
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Precursors of calculus
The ancient period introduced some of the ideas that led to integral calculus, but does not seem to have developed these ideas in a rigorous and systematic way. Calculations of volumes and areas, one goal of integral calculus, can be found in the Egyptian Moscow papyrus (c. 1820 BC), but the formulas are only given for concrete numbers, some are only approximately true, and they are not derived by deductive reasoning.
From the age of Greek mathematics, Eudoxus (c. 408−355 BC) used the method of exhaustion, which foreshadows the concept of the limit, to calculate areas and volumes, while Archimedes (c. 287−212 BC) developed this idea further, inventing heuristics which resemble the methods of integral calculus. The method of exhaustion was later reinvented in China by Liu Hui in the 3rd century AD in order to find the area of a circle. In the 5th century AD, Zu Chongzhi established a method that would later be called Cavalieri's principle to find the volume of a sphere. Greek mathematicians are also credited with a significant use of infinitesimals. Democritus is the first person recorded to consider seriously the division of objects into an infinite number of cross-sections, but his inability to rationalize discrete cross-sections with a cone's smooth slope prevented him from accepting the idea. At approximately the same time, Zeno of Elea discredited infinitesimals further by his articulation of the paradoxes which they create.
Archimedes of Syracuse developed this method further, while also inventing heuristic methods which resemble modern day concepts somewhat. (See Archimedes' Quadrature of the Parabola, The Method, Archimedes on Spheres & Cylinders.) It should not be thought that infinitesimals were put on a rigorous footing during this time, however. Only when it was supplemented by a proper geometric proof would Greek mathematicians accept a proposition as true. It was not until the time of Newton that these methods were incorporated into a general framework of integral calculus. Archimedes was the first to find the tangent to a curve, other than a circle, in a method akin to differential calculus. While studying the spiral, he separated a point's motion into two components, one radial motion component and one circular motion component, and then continued to add the two component motions together, thereby finding the tangent to the curve. The pioneers of the calculus such as Isaac Barrow and Johann Bernoulli were diligent students of Archimedes; see for instance C. S. Roero (1983).
Alexander the Great's invasion of northern India brought Greek trigonometry, using the chord, to India where the sine, cosine, and tangent were conceived. Indian mathematicians gave a semi-rigorous method of differentiation of some trigonometric functions. In the Middle East, Alhazen derived a formula for the sum of fourth powers. He used the results to carry out what would now be called an integration, where the formulas for the sums of integral squares and fourth powers allowed him to calculate the volume of a paraboloid. In the 14th century, Indian mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama and the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics stated components of calculus such as the Taylor series and infinite series approximations. However, they were not able to combine many differing ideas under the two unifying themes of the derivative and the integral, show the connection between the two, and turn calculus into the great problem-solving tool we have today.
The mathematical study of continuity was revived in the fourteenth century by the Oxford Calculators and French collaborators such as Nicole Oresme. They proved the "Merton mean speed theorem": that a uniformly accelerated body travels the same distance as a body with uniform speed whose speed is half the final velocity of the accelerated body.
Pioneers of modern calculus
In the 17th century, European mathematicians Isaac Barrow, René Descartes, Pierre de Fermat, Blaise Pascal, John Wallis and others discussed the idea of a derivative. In particular, in Methodus ad disquirendam maximam et minima and in De tangentibus linearum curvarum, Fermat developed an adequality method for determining maxima, minima, and tangents to various curves that was closely related to differentiation. Isaac Newton would later write that his own early ideas about calculus came directly from "Fermat's way of drawing tangents."
On the integral side, Cavalieri developed his method of indivisibles in the 1630s and 40s, providing a more modern form of the ancient Greek method of exhaustion,[disputed ] and computing Cavalieri's quadrature formula, the area under the curves xn of higher degree, which had previously only been computed for the parabola, by Archimedes. Torricelli extended this work to other curves such as the cycloid, and then the formula was generalized to fractional and negative powers by Wallis in 1656. In a 1659 treatise, Fermat is credited with an ingenious trick for evaluating the integral of any power function directly. Fermat also obtained a technique for finding the centers of gravity of various plane and solid figures, which influenced further work in quadrature. James Gregory, influenced by Fermat's contributions both to tangency and to quadrature, was then able to prove a restricted version of the second fundamental theorem of calculus in the mid-17th century. The first full proof of the fundamental theorem of calculus was given by Isaac Barrow.
Newton and Leibniz, building on this work, independently developed the surrounding theory of infinitesimal calculus in the late 17th century. Also, Leibniz did a great deal of work with developing consistent and useful notation and concepts. Newton provided some of the most important applications to physics, especially of integral calculus.
The first proof of Rolle's theorem was given by Michel Rolle in 1691 using methods developed by the Dutch mathematician Johann van Waveren Hudde. The mean value theorem in its modern form was stated by Bernard Bolzano and Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789–1857) also after the founding of modern calculus. Important contributions were also made by Barrow, Huygens, and many others.
Newton and Leibniz
Before Newton and Leibniz, the word “calculus” was a general term used to refer to any body of mathematics, but in the following years, "calculus" became a popular term for a field of mathematics based upon their insights. The purpose of this section is to examine Newton and Leibniz’s investigations into the developing field of infinitesimal calculus. Specific importance will be put on the justification and descriptive terms which they used in an attempt to understand calculus as they themselves conceived it.
By the middle of the seventeenth century, European mathematics had changed its primary repository of knowledge. In comparison to the last century which maintained Hellenistic mathematics as the starting point for research, Newton, Leibniz and their contemporaries increasingly looked towards the works of more modern thinkers. Europe had become home to a burgeoning mathematical community and with the advent of enhanced institutional and organizational bases a new level of organization and academic integration was being achieved. Importantly, however, the community lacked formalism; instead it consisted of a disordered mass of various methods, techniques, notations, theories, and paradoxes.
Newton came to calculus as part of his investigations in physics and geometry. He viewed calculus as the scientific description of the generation of motion and magnitudes. In comparison, Leibniz focused on the tangent problem and came to believe that calculus was a metaphysical explanation of change. Importantly, the core of their insight was the formalization of the inverse properties between the integral and the differential of a function. This insight had been anticipated by their predecessors, but they were the first to conceive calculus as a system in which new rhetoric and descriptive terms were created. Their unique discoveries lay not only in their imagination, but also in their ability to synthesize the insights around them into a universal algorithmic process, thereby forming a new mathematical system.
Newton completed no definitive publication formalizing his Fluxional Calculus; rather, many of his mathematical discoveries were transmitted through correspondence, smaller papers or as embedded aspects in his other definitive compilations, such as the Principia and Opticks. Newton would begin his mathematical training as the chosen heir of Isaac Barrow in Cambridge. His incredible aptitude was recognized early and he quickly learned the current theories. By 1664 Newton had made his first important contribution by advancing the binomial theorem, which he had extended to include fractional and negative exponents. Newton succeeded in expanding the applicability of the binomial theorem by applying the algebra of finite quantities in an analysis of infinite series. He showed a willingness to view infinite series not only as approximate devices, but also as alternative forms of expressing a term.
Many of Newton’s critical insights occurred during the plague years of 1665-1666 which he later described as, “the prime of my age for invention and minded mathematics and [natural] philosophy more than at any time since.” It was during his plague-induced isolation that the first written conception of Fluxionary Calculus was recorded in the unpublished De Analysi per Aequationes Numero Terminorum Infinitas. In this paper, Newton determined the area under a curve by first calculating a momentary rate of change and then extrapolating the total area. He began by reasoning about an indefinitely small triangle whose area is a function of x and y. He then reasoned that the infinitesimal increase in the abscissa will create a new formula where x = x + o (importantly, o is the letter, not the digit 0). He then recalculated the area with the aid of the binomial theorem, removed all quantities containing the letter o and re-formed an algebraic expression for the area. Significantly, Newton would then “blot out” the quantities containing o because terms “multiplied by it will be nothing in respect to the rest”.
At this point Newton had begun to realize the central property of inversion. He had created an expression for the area under a curve by considering a momentary increase at a point. In effect, the fundamental theorem of calculus was built into his calculations. While his new formulation offered incredible potential, Newton was well aware of its logical limitations at the time. He admits that “errors are not to be disregarded in mathematics, no matter how small” and that what he had achieved was “shortly explained rather than accurately demonstrated.”
In an effort to give calculus a more rigorous explication and framework, Newton compiled in 1671 the Methodus Fluxionum et Serierum Infinitarum. In this book, Newton’s strict empiricism shaped and defined his Fluxional Calculus. He exploited instantaneous motion and infinitesimals informally. He used math as a methodological tool to explain the physical world. The base of Newton’s revised Calculus became continuity; as such he redefined his calculations in terms of continual flowing motion. For Newton, variable magnitudes are not aggregates of infinitesimal elements, but are generated by the indisputable fact of motion.
Newton attempted to avoid the use of the infinitesimal by forming calculations based on ratios of changes. In the Methodus Fluxionum he defined the rate of generated change as a fluxion, which he represented by a dotted letter, and the quantity generated he defined as a fluent. For example, if and are fluents, then and are their respective fluxions. This revised calculus of ratios continued to be developed and was maturely stated in the 1676 text De Quadratura Curvarum where Newton came to define the present day derivative as the ultimate ratio of change, which he defined as the ratio between evanescent increments (the ratio of fluxions) purely at the moment in question. Essentially, the ultimate ratio is the ratio as the increments vanish into nothingness. Importantly, Newton explained the existence of the ultimate ratio by appealing to motion;
“For by the ultimate velocity is meant that, with which the body is moved, neither before it arrives at its last place, when the motion ceases nor after but at the very instant when it arrives... the ultimate ratio of evanescent quantities is to be understood, the ratio of quantities not before they vanish, not after, but with which they vanish”
Newton developed his Fluxional Calculus in an attempt to evade the informal use of infinitesimals in his calculations.
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While Newton began development of his fluxional calculus in 1665-1666 his findings did not become widely circulated until later. In the intervening years Leibniz also strove to create his calculus. In comparison to Newton who came to math at an early age, Leibniz began his rigorous math studies with a mature intellect. He was a polymath, and his intellectual interests and achievements involved metaphysics, law, economics, politics, logic, and mathematics. In order to understand Leibniz’s reasoning in calculus his background should be kept in mind. Particularly, his metaphysics which considered the world as an infinite aggregate of indivisible monads.[dubious ] and his plans of creating a precise formal logic whereby, “a general method in which all truths of the reason would be reduced to a kind of calculation.” In 1672 Leibniz met the mathematician Huygens who convinced Leibniz to dedicate significant time to the study of mathematics. By 1673 he had progressed to reading Pascal’s Traité des Sinus du Quarte Cercle and it was during his largely autodidactic research that Leibniz said "a light turned on". Like Newton, Leibniz, saw the tangent as a ratio but declared it as simply the ratio between ordinates and abscissas. He continued this reasoning to argue that the integral was in fact the sum of the ordinates for infinitesimal intervals in the abscissa; in effect, the sum of an infinite number of rectangles. From these definitions the inverse relationship or differential became clear and Leibniz quickly realized the potential to form a whole new system of mathematics. Where Newton shied away from the use of infinitesimals, Leibniz made it the cornerstone of his notation and calculus.
In the manuscripts of 25 October to 11 November 1675, Leibniz recorded his discoveries and experiments with various forms of notation. He was acutely aware of the notational terms used[attribution needed] and his earlier plans to form a precise logical symbolism became evident. Eventually, Leibniz denoted the infinitesimal increments of abscissas and ordinates dx and dy, and the summation of infinitely many infinitesimally thin rectangles as a long s (∫ ), which became the present integral symbol .
While Leibniz's notation is used by modern mathematics, his logical base was different than our current one. Leibniz embraced infinitesimals and wrote extensively so as, “not to make of the infinitely small a mystery, as had Pascal.”[this quote needs a citation] According to Deleuze, Leibniz's zeroes "are nothings, but they are not absolute nothings, they are nothings respectively" (quoting Leibniz' text "Justification of the calculus of infinitesimals by the calculus of ordinary algebra.")  Alternatively, he defines them as, “less than any given quantity.”[this quote needs a citation] For Leibniz, the world was an aggregate of infinitesimal points[dubious ] and the lack of scientific proof for their existence did not trouble him. Infinitesimals to Leibniz were ideal quantities of a different type from appreciable numbers. The truth of continuity was proven by existence itself. For Leibniz the principle of continuity and thus the validity of his Calculus was assured. Three hundred years after Leibniz's work, Abraham Robinson showed that using infinitesimal quantities in calculus could be given a solid foundation.
The rise of Calculus stands out as a unique moment in mathematics. Calculus is the math of motion and change, and as such, its invention required the creation of a new mathematical system. Importantly, Newton and Leibniz did not create the same Calculus and they did not conceive of modern Calculus. While they were both involved in the process of creating a mathematical system to deal with variable quantities their elementary base was different. For Newton, change was a variable quantity over time and for Leibniz it was the difference ranging over a sequence of infinitely close values. Notably, the descriptive terms each system created to describe change was different.
Historically, there was much debate over whether it was Newton or Leibniz who first "invented" calculus. This argument, the Leibniz and Newton calculus controversy, involving Leibniz, who was German, and the Englishman Newton, led to a rift in the European mathematical community lasting over a century. Leibniz was the first to publish his investigations; however, it is well established that Newton had started his work several years prior to Leibniz and had already developed a theory of tangents by the time Leibniz became interested in the question. Much of the controversy centers on the question whether Leibniz had seen certain early manuscripts of Newton before publishing his own memoirs on the subject. Newton began his work on calculus no later than 1666, and Leibniz did not begin his work until 1673. Leibniz visited England in 1673 and again in 1676, and was shown some of Newton's unpublished writings. He also corresponded with several English scientists (as well as with Newton himself), and may have gained access to Newton's manuscripts through them. It is not known how much this may have influenced Leibniz. The initial accusations were made by students and supporters of the two great scientists at the turn of the century, but after 1711 both of them became personally involved, accusing each other of plagiarism.
The priority dispute had an effect of separating English-speaking mathematicians from those in the continental Europe for many years. Only in the 1820s, due to the efforts of the Analytical Society, did Leibnizian analytical calculus become accepted in England. Today, both Newton and Leibniz are given credit for independently developing the basics of calculus. It is Leibniz, however, who is credited with giving the new discipline the name it is known by today: "calculus". Newton's name for it was "the science of fluents and fluxions".
The work of both Newton and Leibniz is reflected in the notation used today. Newton introduced the notation for the derivative of a function f. Leibniz introduced the symbol for the integral and wrote the derivative of a function y of the variable x as , both of which are still in use.
Niels Henrik Abel seems to have been the first to consider in a general way the question as to what differential expressions can be integrated in a finite form by the aid of ordinary functions, an investigation extended by Liouville. Cauchy early undertook the general theory of determining definite integrals, and the subject has been prominent during the 19th century. Frullani's theorem (1821), Bierens de Haan's work on the theory (1862) and his elaborate tables (1867), Lejeune Dirichlet's lectures (1858) embodied in Meyer's treatise (1871), and numerous memoirs of Legendre, Poisson, Plana, Raabe, Sohncke, Schlömilch, Elliott, Leudesdorf, and Kronecker are among the noteworthy contributions.
although these were not the exact forms of Euler's study.
If n is an integer, it follows that:
but the integral converges for all positive real and defines an analytic continuation of the factorial function to all of the complex plane except for poles at zero and the negative integers. To it Legendre assigned the symbol , and it is now called the gamma function. Besides being analytic over the positive reals, also enjoys the uniquely defining property that is convex, which aesthetically justifies this analytic continuation of the factorial function over any other analytic continuation. To the subject Lejeune Dirichlet has contributed an important theorem (Liouville, 1839), which has been elaborated by Liouville, Catalan, Leslie Ellis, and others. On the evaluation of and Raabe (1843–44), Bauer (1859), and Gudermann (1845) have written. Legendre's great table appeared in 1816.
Symbolic methods may be traced back to Taylor, and the much debated analogy between successive differentiation and ordinary exponentials had been observed by numerous writers before the nineteenth century. Arbogast (1800) was the first, however, to separate the symbol of operation from that of quantity in a differential equation. François (1812) and Servois (1814) seem to have been the first to give correct rules on the subject. Hargreave (1848) applied these methods in his memoir on differential equations, and Boole freely employed them. Grassmann and Hermann Hankel made great use of the theory, the former in studying equations, the latter in his theory of complex numbers.
Calculus of variations
The calculus of variations may be said to begin with a problem of Johann Bernoulli's (1696). It immediately occupied the attention of Jakob Bernoulli and the Marquis de l'Hôpital, but Euler first elaborated the subject. His contributions began in 1733, and his Elementa Calculi Variationum gave to the science its name. Lagrange contributed extensively to the theory, and Legendre (1786) laid down a method, not entirely satisfactory, for the discrimination of maxima and minima. To this discrimination Brunacci (1810), Gauss (1829), Poisson (1831), Ostrogradsky (1834), and Jacobi (1837) have been among the contributors. An important general work is that of Sarrus (1842) which was condensed and improved by Cauchy (1844). Other valuable treatises and memoirs have been written by Strauch (1849), Jellett (1850), Hesse (1857), Clebsch (1858), and Carll (1885), but perhaps the most important work of the century[peacock term] is that of Weierstrass. His course on the theory may be asserted[by whom?] that he was the first to place calculus on a firm and rigorous foundation.
The application of the infinitesimal calculus to problems in physics and astronomy was contemporary with the origin of the science. All through the eighteenth century these applications were multiplied, until at its close Laplace and Lagrange had brought the whole range of the study of forces into the realm of analysis. To Lagrange (1773) we owe the introduction of the theory of the potential into dynamics, although the name "potential function" and the fundamental memoir of the subject are due to Green (1827, printed in 1828). The name "potential" is due to Gauss (1840), and the distinction between potential and potential function to Clausius. With its development are connected the names of Lejeune Dirichlet, Riemann, von Neumann, Heine, Kronecker, Lipschitz, Christoffel, Kirchhoff, Beltrami, and many of the leading physicists of the century.
It is impossible in this place to enter into the great variety of other applications of analysis to physical problems. Among them are the investigations of Euler on vibrating chords; Sophie Germain on elastic membranes; Poisson, Lamé, Saint-Venant, and Clebsch on the elasticity of three-dimensional bodies; Fourier on heat diffusion; Fresnel on light; Maxwell, Helmholtz, and Hertz on electricity; Hansen, Hill, and Gyldén on astronomy; Maxwell on spherical harmonics; Lord Rayleigh on acoustics; and the contributions of Lejeune Dirichlet, Weber, Kirchhoff, F. Neumann, Lord Kelvin, Clausius, Bjerknes, MacCullagh, and Fuhrmann to physics in general. The labors of Helmholtz should be especially mentioned, since he contributed to the theories of dynamics, electricity, etc., and brought his great analytical powers to bear on the fundamental axioms of mechanics as well as on those of pure mathematics.
Furthermore, infinitesimal calculus was introduced into the social sciences, starting with Neoclassical economics. Today, it is a valuable tool in mainstream economics.
Non-European antecedents of the calculus
In the 11th century, when Ibn al-Haytham (known as Alhacen in Europe), an Iraqi mathematician working in Egypt, devised what is now known as "Alhazen's problem", which leads to an equation of the fourth degree, in his Book of Optics. While solving this problem, he was the first mathematician to derive the formula for the sum of the fourth powers, using a method that is readily generalizable for determining the general formula for the sum of any integral powers. He performed an integration in order to find the volume of a paraboloid, and was able to generalize his result for the integrals of polynomials up to the fourth degree. He thus came close to finding a general formula for the integrals of polynomials, but he was not concerned with any polynomials higher than the fourth degree.
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Archimedes' study of the spiral, a curve that he ascribed to his friend Conon of Alexandria, was part of the Greek search for the solution of the three famous problems."
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- The geometrical lectures of Isaac Barrow, translated, with notes and proofs, and a discussion on the advance made therein on the work of his predecessors in the infinitesimal calculus. Chicago: Open Court. 1916.
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- Such as Kepler, Descartes, Fermat, Pascal and Wallis. Calinger 1999, p. 556
- Foremost among these was Barrow who had created formulas for specific cases and Fermat who created a similar definition for the derivative. For more information; Boyer 184
- Calinger 1999, p. 610
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- The use of prime to denote the derivative, is due to Lagrange.
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