Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born in the middle of the 17th century, but his substantial contributions to our understanding of numbers form the underpinnings of the computers we use every day.
Born on this day in 1646, the German mathematician completed his bachelor's degree in philosophy in one year at age 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 contribution to the study of calculus, he also refined the binary numerical system, in which the value of a number is expressed as a combination of ones and zeros. 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 contributed to a wide array of other fields, including biology, medicine, psychology and linguistics.
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