Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: 1646 - 1716
Leipzig's greatest son, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, was born here on July 1, 1646, and he passed away 300 years ago, on November 14, 1716, in Hanover. Other important stations of his life were Mainz and Paris.
Leibniz invented calculus, independently of Newton, and in the form that is still essentially used today. He conceived an abstract science of space, Analysis situs, a precursor of modern topology. He also invented the binary system, the basis of modern computer programming, and he constructed a machine that could perform not only additions, but also multiplications. He formulated important principles of logic. His idea of possible worlds underlies one of the most fundamental recent developments of formal logic.
Leibniz developed deep insights into the foundations of physics. These include the conservation of energy, optimality principles, and the relativity of space. His philosophical insights represent key steps in the emergence of modern ontology and epistemology.
He tried to reconcile the different Christian confessions and to deflect the military aggression in Europe by rational arguments, and he formulated basic principles of legal order.
He applied his theoretical insights in engineering projects - theoria cum praxi was his motto. He founded or inspired several scientific academies. He laid out basic principles of historical research and painstakingly searched for historical documents in various archives. His view of history was wider than dynastic history and included the history of the earth and that of mankind. He thus became the founding father of many scientific disciplines.
All these endeavors were united by a great vision. Both his intellectual achievements and his vision remain powerful sources of inspiration.