Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
or von Leibniz
(1 July (21 June Old Style
) 1646 – November 14, 1716) was a German polymath
who wrote mostly in Latin and French.
Educated in law and philosophy, and serving as factotum to two major German noble houses (one becoming the British royal family while he served it), Leibniz played a major role in the European politics and diplomacy of his day. He occupies an equally large place in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathematics. He invented calculus independently of Newton, and his notation is the one in general use since. He also invented the binary system, foundation of virtually all modern computer architectures. In philosophy, he is most remembered for optimism, i.e., his conclusion that our universe is, in a restricted sense, the best possible one God could have made. He was, along with René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, one of the three great 17th century rationalists, but his philosophy also both looks back to the Scholastic tradition and anticipates modern logic and analysis.
Leibniz also made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in biology, medicine, geology, probability theory, psychology, and information science. He also wrote on politics, law, ethics, theology, history, and philology, even occasional verse. His contributions to this vast array of subjects are scattered in journals and in tens of thousands of letters and unpublished manuscripts. To date, there is no complete edition of Leibniz's writings, and a complete account of his accomplishments is not yet possible.