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Famous Mathematicians from the 18th Century
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Leibniz was an incredible Renaissance man who dabbled not only in advanced mathematics, but also in
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Famous Mathematicians from the 18th Century
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The 18th century was an exciting time in the field of mathematics. It began with the development of infinitesimal calculus, and came to a close with huge advances in physics and astronomy.The discovery of calculus, and Newton's laws of motion, dominated the beginning of the century. Isaac Newton's greatest work took place in the late 1600s, but its influence only grew in the decades to come.
Isaac Newton came up with many of the principles of gravitation and of calculus in 1665, but his findings were not published until 1687, in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Newton himself propagated the famous story, that an apple falling from a tree was his inspiration in deriving the laws of gravity. Newton's discoveries, which proved once and for all that the sun was the center of Earth's orbit, are credited with consolidating the Scientific Revolution.While Newton is popularly known as the father of calculus, an intense debate raged during his day over whether a German mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz, had independently developed calculus before Newton published. Leibniz was an incredible Renaissance man, who dabbled not only in advanced mathematics, but also history, philosophy, and mechanics. He even served as a German diplomat.
Leibniz began working on calculus in 1674; some say that a few years prior, during a trip to England, he had read a Newton manuscript on the subject. Leibniz always denied this, but in 1711 the British Royal Society, presumably with Newton's encouragement, accused Leibniz of plagiarism. While he ended his life in relative disgrace and depression, many now argue that he did indeed come up with unique and independent principles of calculus, such as the integral symbol.The 18th century saw the rise of several famous Swiss mathematicians. First, the Bernoulli family, which turned out mathematic principles such as the Bernoulli number (discovered by Jacob), the Bernoulli spiral (otherwise known as the logarithmic spiral) and the constant "e." Jacob collaborated with Leibniz on advanced applications of calculus, and mentored his son Daniel and friend Leonhard Euler.Euler would go on to become one of the most famous mathematicians in history. He worked most of his career at courts in Berlin and St. Petersburg, where he continued to build upon the calculus work of the Bernoullis. That constant "e" Jacob came up with? Named for Euler. He was a popularly read scholar, who could explain complicated equations in ways that regular people could understand.But France would not be outdone by its neighbors, and it recruited a great Italian mathematician, Joseph Louis LaGrange. LaGrange, a contemporary of Euler, worked with him on a calculus of variations. He also refined Newton's principles of physics into LaGrangian mechanics, which combined the physics of energy with the physics of motion. One of his passions was astronomy, and he successfully solved what was known as the three-body problem -- explaining how gravity worked between the many objects of the solar system, and more.The 18th century, the height of the Scientific Revolution, included countless other distinguished mathematicians, including Joseph Fourier, who discovered the Greenhouse effect, and Maria Agnesi of Italy, the world's first female mathematics professor. And of course, these advances were not limited to just Europe. Arabic and East Asian scholars made important contributions as well.
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