Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born in the middle of the 17th century but made substantial contributions to computer science still the underpinnings for modern computers.
Born on this day in 1646, the German mathematician completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in one year at age of 15 and went on to become one of the most prominent figures in the history of philosophy. He was an early advocate of the theory of rationalism and anticipated modern logic and analytic philosophy.
But it was for his work in mathematics that his 372nd birthday is celebrated in a Google Doodle on Sunday. While Leibniz’s greatest accomplishment is his contributions to the study of calculus, he also refined the binary numerical system, in which a series of ones and zeros express of numbers. The system forms the foundation for almost all modern computers and mobile devices.
Leibniz was also a prolific inventor of mechanical calculators, conceiving in 1685 the pinwheel calculator, an engine constructed of wheels with adjustable teeth that would enjoy popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. His Leibniz wheel, invented in 1673, powered the first mass-produced calculating machine and was used for three centuries until the invention of the electronic calculator in 1970s.
He also made contributions to a wide array of subjects, including biology, medicine, psychology and linguistics.
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