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The calculus priority dispute

Isaac Newton

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The calculus priority dispute

Newton had the essence of the methods of fluxions by 1666. The first to become known, privately, to other mathematicians, in 1668, was his method of integration by infinite series. In Paris in 1675 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz independently evolved the first ideas of his differential calculus, outlined to Newton in 1677. Newton had already described some of his mathematical discoveries to Leibniz, not including his method of fluxions. In 1684 Leibniz published his first paper on calculus, a small group of mathematicians took up his ideas.

In the 1690s Newtons friends proclaimed the priority of Newtons methods of fluxions. Supporters of Leibniz asserted that he had communicated the differential method to Newton, although Leibniz had claimed no such thing. Newtonians then asserted, rightly, that Leibniz had seen papers of Newtons during a London visit in 1676, in reality, Leibniz had taken no notice of material on fluxions. A violent dispute sprang up, part public, part private, extended by Leibniz to attacks on Newtons theory of gravitation and his ideas about God and creation, it was not ended even by Leibnizs death in 1716. The dispute delayed the reception of Newtonian science on the Continent, and dissuaded British mathematicians from sharing the researches of Continental colleagues for a century.


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