Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was undoubtedly a polymath, having in his lifetime researched philosophy, theology, mathematics, science, engineering, physics, and philology. How did he achieve this? In today's day and age you hear of scientist, mathematicians, physicist, but never a sciemathimsicist. Was Leibniz simply a genius compared to geniuses of our time, or is there some hidden reason for his unbelievable mental girth? Yes, Leibniz did have some advantages, which we shall now explore.
First of all, his father was a professor at the university of Leipzig. When he died, while Gottfried was but six, the university granted him free access to their library from age seven onward. From this temple of thought young Gottfried absorbed knowledge far beyond his age, teaching himself Latin by the age of twelve. He, of course, entered his father's university when he reached the proper age, which was fourteen.
Secondly, He was employed as the courtier of the house of Brunswick. (Which later became the royal family of England). They assigned him with the task of writing the history of the house of Brunswick, and although he never actually finished the project, it did allow him to travel extensively, delving into various archives and other bodies of knowledge. Few persons of today have the time nor the resources of royal families to undertake such grand expeditions.
Lastly, he lived in an age where there was far less knowledge available. This might sound like a bad thing, but all it means is those wishing to enter the arena of academia needed very little training before they began their own discoveries; unlike today, where one must battle through the endless sea of experiments and concepts left behind by Newton and, guess who, Leibniz. Also, the lack of information of the day allowed one to delve into various disciplines and make real contributions to many, if not all, of them. Whereas today the only way to seriously add to the body of knowledge is to specialize in one field of study, and even then you'll be lucky if all you do isn't just filling in the cracks in Newton or Leibniz's wall.
I do not mean to detract from Leibniz's achievements, nor do I wish to imply that Leibniz had it easy, quite the contrary. While it was easier for Leibniz to gain knowledge then it is for those of us today, he was met with challenge in almost every other aspect in his life. When his former masters ascended to kingdom, King George I refused to let Leibniz join them in London because of his failure to finish the history of the house of Brunswick. Also, there was the great Leibniz and Newton controversy. As you've probably known, Newton invented Calculus. He created it, then stuffed it in his desk, and left it for years. Newton's way to deal with critics seemed to be to withdraw his idea, wait for the critics to die, and then reair the idea while discrediting the dead. On this occasion, things went a little different. After Newton invented calculus, but before he published it, Leibniz went ahead and published his own version of calculus. Newtonits claimed that Leibniz had copied sir Isaac's original form, then tweaked it a little. Leibniz then made the mistake of turning to the Royal Society, who were basically the potentates of all things sciencey, and of which Newton was a unofficial member. The Royals decided in favor of Newton, and Leibniz's popularity and credibility plummeted. When he died, he had fallen so out of favor that his grave remained unmarked for many years. Fortunately, his works have steadily increased in popularity over the centuries, and humanity has greatly benefited.

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