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Who Invented Calculus First?

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Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with rates of change. The question of who invented calculus, however, is not a straightforward one. Two mathematicians, Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, are credited with independently inventing calculus in the late 17th century.

Newton is commonly thought of as the primary inventor of calculus. He developed his ideas about calculus over a period of several years, beginning in the late 1660s. However, he did not publish his work on the subject until 1687, in his famous book “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (commonly known as the “Principia”).

Leibniz, on the other hand, began working on calculus in the 1670s, and began publishing about the subject in the late 1680s. In fact, some mathematicians argue that Leibniz’s notation for calculus is superior to Newton’s, and that Leibniz’s work laid the foundation for much of the mathematical notation used today.

So, who really invented calculus first? It depends on what you mean by “invented.” Newton was likely the first person to develop the ideas of calculus, but Leibniz was the first to publish about the subject. Ultimately, both men played important roles in the development of calculus, and their work continues to influence mathematics and science today.

Welcome readers! Have you ever wondered who invented calculus first? It’s a tricky question because there were two mathematicians who independently developed calculus in the late 17th century. Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz are both credited with the invention of calculus, but who really invented it first? Let’s explore their contributions and come to a conclusion.

Who Invented Calculus First?
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Who Invented Calculus First


The discovery of calculus has revolutionized many fields of study, including science, engineering, and economics. It has enabled experts in these fields to make accurate predictions, solve complex problems, and optimize processes. However, the question of who invented calculus first is a matter of debate in the academic community. In this article, we will discuss the two individuals whose contributions led to the invention of calculus and the development of their distinct approaches.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton is commonly credited with inventing calculus, and it is widely recognized that he made significant contributions to the field. Newton created the calculus of fluxions, which involved an approach called the “method of infinite series.” This method relied on creating power series, which are infinite sums, to represent functions that Newton was studying. By using power series, Newton was able to solve problems related to motion and acceleration, which were particularly relevant to his work as a physicist.

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Another achievement of Newton was the invention of the “fundamental theorem of calculus”, which establishes a connection between differentiation and integration. This theorem enables us to calculate the area under a curve and to find the antiderivative of a function. Newton’s work paved the way for further developments and applications of calculus, making it one of the most important branches of mathematics.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is another individual who is credited with inventing calculus. Leibniz developed his approach to calculus independently of Newton’s work, and he called it the “infinitesimal calculus.” Leibniz’s concept of infinitesimals involved treating infinitely small quantities as numbers that could be manipulated and operated on like regular numbers. This approach differed from Newton’s method of using limits and gave rise to a new branch of calculus called nonstandard analysis.

Leibniz is also known for developing a notation system for calculus that is still used today. His notation, which includes the integral sign and the letter “d” to indicate a derivative, makes it easier to express complex mathematical concepts in a concise and readable manner. Additionally, Leibniz is credited with discovering the product rule, which enables us to differentiate the product of two functions.


Both Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz made significant contributions to the invention of calculus, and their distinct approaches have led to the development of two distinct branches of calculus. Newton’s work with power series and the fundamental theorem of calculus has been influential in the field of physics, while Leibniz’s use of infinitesimals and his notation system have made complex mathematical concepts more accessible to students and professionals alike. Without their contributions, many of the technological advancements and scientific breakthroughs of the past few centuries would not have been possible.

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The Contenders: Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time. He made significant contributions to the fields of physics and mathematics, including the development of calculus.

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Newton’s calculus method, known as the “fluxion” method, was based on geometric principles and used infinitesimal quantities, which he referred to as “fluxions.” His work on calculus was published in his 1687 seminal book, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” or “Principia Mathematica.”

In his work, Newton developed formulas to solve differential equations and to find the rate of change of a function. He also created a generalized binomial theorem and introduced the concept of a “Newtonian reflector.”

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher, mathematician, and physicist who is also credited with developing calculus. Unlike Newton, Leibniz did not base his calculus method on the geometric principles but instead introduced a symbolic notation system that is still in use today.

Leibniz’s calculus method aimed to find the maximums and minimums of functions and introduced the concept of the integral sign. He published his work on calculus in 1684, three years before Newton published his work on the same subject.

Moreover, Leibniz contributed significantly to the fields of philosophy, logic, and metaphysics. He developed the concept of “monads” and is credited with inventing the binary system, which serves as the foundation of modern computing.

Newton vs. Leibniz

The debate over who invented calculus first is contentious and still contested to this day. Both Newton and Leibniz developed the calculus independently of each other and with different approaches. While Newton based his calculus method on geometric principles, Leibniz introduced symbolic notation that is still in use today.

Although Leibniz published his work on calculus before Newton did, the debate on whether he had access to Newton’s work before publishing his method is still inconclusive. Despite the controversy over priority, both Newton and Leibniz contributed significantly to the development of calculus and changed the course of mathematics.

Calculus has been credited to two individuals, Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. However, it is debated which one invented calculus first. To learn more about who invented calculus first, check out our true pillar article on the history of mathematics.

The Timeframe of Discovery

Newton’s Work on Calculus

Sir Isaac Newton worked on calculus in the late 1660s and early 1670s. In 1672, he presented his ideas to the Royal Society in England, and they were published in his book “Principia Mathematica” in 1687. Newton’s approach to calculus was based on limits and infinitesimal calculations. However, in his method, he used geometric drawing to calculate the limits of a curve, which made it somewhat difficult to apply to more complex problems.

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Despite this, Newton was the first to develop calculus in Europe and was initially credited with inventing it.

Leibniz’s Work on Calculus

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a German polymath, began working on calculus shortly after Newton. He developed his symbols and notation system, which is still used today, and applied it to the study of differential and integral calculus. In 1684, Leibniz wrote to a friend that he had discovered calculus and used differential notation. However, he did not publish his work until 1686.

Leibniz’s notation, which relied on algebraic notation, was more straightforward and easier to apply to complex problems than Newton’s geometric method. However, it is worth noting that Leibniz’s work on calculus was largely independent of Newton’s discoveries.

The Controversy Over Who Invented Calculus First

There has been much debate over who invented calculus first. In England, Newton’s work on calculus was widely accepted as the original discovery. In contrast, Leibniz was known for his work in Germany and was credited with the original discovery of calculus there.

In reality, neither Newton nor Leibniz discovered calculus entirely independently of each other. Both men had access to similar sources of information and were aware of the work of predecessors such as John Wallis and Isaac Barrow. While they may have taken slightly different approaches to their work, it is clear that they were working on calculus at roughly the same time.


In conclusion, the discovery of calculus was a culmination of centuries of work by mathematicians across the globe. While Newton and Leibniz were both instrumental in developing calculus into the powerful tool for scientific and mathematical work that it is today, it is impossible to say definitively who invented it first. What is clear, however, is that the development of calculus was a monumental intellectual achievement and has opened up a vast variety of new perspectives on the world in which we live.

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