Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Baron von

Life

After studying at Leipzig, his native city, and at Jena, he became a doctor of law at Altdorf (1666). Constantly occupied with practical political concerns, Leibniz never accepted an academic position. He was (1666–73) in the diplomatic service of the elector of Mainz, who employed him on several political projects; one of these was a plan to persuade King Louis XIV of France to attack Egypt and thereby to divert his attention from Germany. While in Paris (1672–76) he came into contact with some of the foremost minds of Europe.

About that time he developed, independently of Newton, the infinitesimal calculus. Leibniz's calculus was published in 1684, three years before Newton's, and his system of notation was universally adopted. From 1676 he was employed by the duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (later the elector of Hanover), whom he served as privy councillor, librarian, and historian. This association brought him close to the elector of Brandenburg (soon to be king of Prussia), who was persuaded by Leibniz to establish a scientific academy at Berlin. In 1700 he became its first president.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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