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The calculus wars : Newton, Leibniz, and the…
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The calculus wars : Newton, Leibniz, and the greatest mathematical clash… (2006)

by Jason Socrates Bardi

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Interesting review of the lives of Newton and Leibniz, but talk about a calculus war is overstating it somewhat. It only really happened towards the end of Leibniz's life so that it only takes up a relatively small portion near the end of the book.
Unfortunately, it is obviously written by an American, with a style/viewpoint I found a little patronising towards Europeans and 17th/18th century. It could have been redeemed by a little more detail on the calculus underpinning the discussion.
Overall, I was happy to finish the book, but not in a good way. ( )
  BrianHostad | Apr 15, 2014 |
The Calculus Wars is the history of the dispute between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, concerning the invention of calculus. The dispute itself occurred some 20 years after Leibniz first published a paper on calculus, which in turn, was some years after Newton invented his version of calculus, but did not publish it then.

The book was very interesting and well researched. Bardi worked hard to create a history of this dispute that was both fair to the two great mathematicians involved and intelligible to the average reader who does not understand calculus. He carefully develops the personality of both parties and left me with sympathy for both.

I do have two small complaints. First, I do wish he would have provided footnotes for some of the material. While most references should be easy to locate (since most of Newton's and Leibniz's writings are published), specific references would make the job easier. Second, and this is because I do understand calculus, I wish he had included even a brief explanation of the differences between Newton's and Leibniz's calculus. Was Newton's fluxions the same as Leibniz's differentials? How did the notation differ? I fully understand why he did not go into detail about this, but some detail even as an appendix would have been nice.

Overall, I'm very pleased to have read this book as it clarifies many references in other math histories to the Newton/Leibniz debate. ( )
  LMHTWB | Jan 8, 2012 |
This is the story of the two genius scientists who, among numerous other achievements and interests, independently invent calculus. When followers of Newton publicly accuse Leibniz of plagiarism, courtesy, objectivity, and justice is replaced by pride, politics, and emotion.
In the chapters leading up to the clash, we learn about their two very different personalities. Newton, the reclusive genius, has had much recognition and received many honours, starting within his lifetime. Leibniz, the polymath, thrived on interaction with other scientists, published a great deal, and invented, but is relatively obscure, even today.
The book is also a fascinating read of how scientists made their way in England and Europe in the late 17th and early 18th century. You won't have to know anything about calculus to appreciate this book. ( )
  joanneb | Jul 3, 2011 |
Right off the bat, there is very little in the way of technical math stuff in this book. It is simply a story about two brilliant mathematicians and the interesting times they lived in. For those not aware, the calculus is mainly an algebraic method of analyzing curves, notably finding the equation of a line tangent to a curve as well as calculating the area under a curve. Anyway, the reason there is a book about this is because of a feud that blew up later in the lives of Herr Leibniz and Sir Newton.

In a nutshell, Newton had come up with his concept of fluxions literally decades before Leibniz but these ideas were never published. Leibniz had the opportunity to browse some pamphlets and books that Newton had given to his friend, one John Wallis. Did Leibniz read something there that inspired his methods of differential calculus? During their earlier years as peers, the two recognized each other as distinguished and preeminent theoretical mathematicians. Later on, a fervent supporter of Newton, with a certain amount of aid from Newton himself, publicly charged Leibniz with plagiarism literally decades after Leibniz published his ideas. These were charges that could never be cleared completely and denigrated into an ugly scene, each trying desperately to discredit the other. There are some very odd quinkydinks that almost imply that the two were fated to interact with each other, such as Leibniz' patron and sponsor in Hanover going on to become King of England because his grandmother was the daughter of King James II or some such (I have a tidy history of Britain from the library on my TBR pile to tidy up my fuzzy royalty data.)

There are some editing errors throughout, the annoying stuff that you know slipped through a spellcheck program that nobody noticed. Things like 'an' instead of 'and', a sentence like '...and France went to war with German.', and even a paragraph that ends in midsentence that fortunately was in the bibliographic epilogue. Along with some odd phrase choices and metaphors here and there, it still is an interesting slice of history well worth reading. ( )
1 vote DirtPriest | Oct 28, 2010 |
One can tell that Sardi is a scientist first and a writer second. While the “war” between Liebniz and Newton over who invented calculus was interesting nonetheless, the sequencing was erratic and the ham-handed segues were glaringly obvious. The reader will have to play attention when Sardi goes back and forth in time and subject, but the overall tale is well researched and competently put forth. The other noticeable misstep here is that the whole book is about math and science, but there are very little explanatory diagrams or formulas. ( )
  NielsenGW | Jan 10, 2009 |
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This book is dedicated to Georgia Peaches Bardi.
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Preface -- At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) and Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) were about to go to war.
For more than ten bitter years, these two brilliant figures in German and British mathematics would fight a brutal public battle to the ends of their lives, in which each man defended his own right to claim intellectual ownership of calculus -- the branch of mathematical analysis useful for investigating everything from geometrical shapes to the orbits of planets in motion around the sun.
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"Now regarded as the bane of many college students' existence, calculus was one of the most important mathematical innovations of the seventeenth century. But a dispute over its discovery sowed the seeds of discontent between two of the greatest scientific giants of all time - Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz." "Today Newton and Leibniz are generally considered the twin independent inventors of calculus. They are both credited with giving mathematics its greatest push forward since the time of the Greeks. Had they known each other under different circumstances, they might have been friends. But in their own lifetimes, the joint glory of calculus was not enough for either and each declared war against the other, openly and in secret." "This long and bitter dispute has been swept under the carpet by historians - perhaps because it reveals Newton and Leibniz in their worst light - but The Calculus Wars tells the full story in narrative form for the first time. This history ultimately exposes how these twin mathematical giants were brilliant, proud, at times mad, and in the end completely human."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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