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Calculus

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 24 September 2009

Melvyn Bragg discusses the epic feud between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over who invented an astonishingly powerful new mathematical tool - calculus. Both claimed to have conceived it independently, but the argument soon descended into a bitter battle over priority, plagiarism and philosophy. Set against the backdrop of the Hanoverian succession to the English throne and the formation of the Royal Society, the fight pitted England against Europe, geometric notation against algebra. It was fundamental to the grounding of a mathematical system which is one of the keys to the modern world, allowing us to do everything from predicting the pressure building behind a dam to tracking the position of a space shuttle.Melvyn is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Darwin College; Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor at Clare College, University of Cambridge; and Jackie Stedall, Departmental Lecturer in History of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

  • FURTHER READING

    Hall, A. R., Philosophers at War: The Quarrel Between Newton and Leibniz (Cambridge, 1980)

    Bardi, Jason, The Calculus Wars (High Stakes Publishing, 2006)

    Westfall, R. S., The Life of Isaac Newton (Cambridge, 1994)

    Macdonald, Ross, G. Leibniz (Oxford, 1986)

    Fara, Patricia, Newton: The Making of Genius (Columbia University Press, 2002)

    Guicciardini, Niccolò, Isaac Newton on Mathematical Certainty and Method (MIT Press, October 2009)

    Guicciardini, Niccolò, Reading Principia: The Debate on Newton’s Mathematical Methods for Natural Philosophy from 1687 to 1736 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

    Robson, Eleanor, and Stedall, Jacqueline, (ed) The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics, (Oxford University Press, 2008)

  • Radio 4 Mathematics Collection

    Radio 4 Mathematics Collection

    Listen to more maths programmes

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