Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz

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asking them to correct the wrong done to him by Keills claims. In response to this letter the Royal Society set up a committee to pronounce on the priority dispute. It was totally biased, not asking Leibniz to give his version of the events. The report of the committee, finding in favour of Newton, was written by Newton himself and published as Commercium epistolicum near the beginning of 1713 but not seen by Leibniz until the autumn of 1714. He learnt of its contents in 1713 in a letter from Johann Bernoulli, reporting on the copy of the work brought from Paris by his nephew Nicolaus(I) Bernoulli. Leibniz published an anonymous pamphlet Charta volans setting out his side in which a mistake by Newton in his understanding of second and higher derivatives, spotted by Johann Bernoulli, is used as evidence of Leibnizs case.

The argument continued with Keill who published a reply to Charta volans. Leibniz refused to carry on the argument with Keill, saying that he could not reply to an idiot. However, when Newton wrote to him directly, Leibniz did reply and gave a detailed description of his discovery of the differential calculus. From 1715 up until his death Leibniz corresponded with Samuel Clarke, a supporter of Newton, on time, space, freewill, gravitational attraction across a void and other topics, see, , and .

In Leibniz is described as follows:-

Leibniz was a man of medium height with a stoop, broad-shouldered but bandy-legged, as capable of thinking for several days sitting in the same chair as of travelling the roads of Europe summer and winter. He was an indefatigable worker, a universal letter writer (he had more than 600 correspondents), a patriot and cosmopolitan, a great scientist, and one of the most powerful spirits of Western civilisation.

Ross, in , points out that Leibnizs legacy may have not been quite what he had hoped for:-

It is ironical that one so devoted to the cause of mutual understanding should have succeeded only in adding to intellectual chauvinism and dogmatism. There is a similar irony in the fact that he was one of the last great polymaths - not in the frivolous sense of having a wide general knowledge, but in the deeper sense of one who is a citizen of the whole world of intellectual inquiry. He deliberately ignored boundaries between disciplines, and lack of qualifications never deterred him from contributing fresh insights to established specialisms. Indeed, one of the reasons why he was so hostile to universities as institutions was because their faculty structure prevented the cross-fertilisation of ideas which he saw as essential to the advance of knowledge and of wisdom. The irony is that he was himself instrumental in bringing about an era of far greater intellectual and scientific specialism, as technical advances pushed more and more disciplines out of the reach of the intelligent layman and amateur.

J J OConnor and E F Robertson

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