Aug 192012

Newton vs Leibniz

Just little graphical joke I’ve been working on: a play on how, while Isaac Newton seems remarkably humble in the things he says about himself, his way of treating a ‘competitor’ seems rather less honourable.

Both Newton and the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed calculus around the same time. However, rather than being amicable about this joint discovery and looking into each other’s work, Newton did his best to discredit Leibniz and used his influence on the royal academy to achieve that.

In the words of Stephen Hawking: ” As the row grew, Leibniz made the mistake of appealing to the Royal Society to resolve the dispute. Newton, as president, appointed an “impartial” committee to investigate, coincidentally consisting entirely of Newton’s friends! But that was not all: Newton then wrote the committee’s report himself and had the Royal Society publish it, officially accusing Leibniz of plagiarism. Still unsatisfied, he then wrote an anonymous review of the report in the Royal Society’s own periodical” (see link).

Leibniz fell into disrepute over this issue and made no other significant contributions to academia after. It is a shame really, but I appreciate the irony.

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