CALCULUS WARS, THE Paperback – 27 Jun 2007
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Top customer reviews
Bardi has written an interesting (and eminently readable) history of this great debate, but one that takes a long time to come to the boil. In his defence, the calculus war is important in the context of the lives and intellectual career of the protagonists, so cannot be understood without much background. The balance may be too far towards the context rather than the content of the debate. The author also sometimes slips into somewhat sloppy prose: "From Leibniz's perspective, the report was a slap in the face with a bag full of marbles." This can take away from the thrust of his arguments.
It is fascinating that it was not an open war between the two, but between Leibniz and disciples of Newton (Leibniz describes Newton's disciples elsewhere as `men accustomed to calculate rather than to think'.) I was a little surprised that this quote was not in the book. There is also no mention of the two compensating errors that Newton had in his version of calculus (or `fluxions'), which cancel each other out. These are not in the Leibniz version - one further fact that backs up the idea that both invented calculus.
The author does bring a good grasp of how science worked at the time and the very profuse nature of how Leibniz worked - 300 letters a year, many of great significance at the time in the advancement of knowledge, or explaining the Leibniz world view (and these akin to scientific papers). Although with no direct bearing on the Calculus War, little is made of the well documented Leibniz - Clarke correspondence. The differing world views only served to entrench each man's stance on the REAL matter - who invented calculus. However, Bardi emphasises the naivety of Leibniz appealing to The Royal Society in the debate, when as President, Newton WAS in effect The Royal Society.
There is a nice summary from a historical perspective. Newton appeared to win at the time, but perhaps neither won, both tarnished by the debate. The accepted view is that both invented calculus, and got no (significant) detail from each other. However, the use of differential calculus enabled mathematics as a whole to progress by a huge leap. In the end, does it matter who invented it?
Peter Morgan (email@example.com)
There are frequent spelling, grammatical and other errors, most of which are so obvious I have to wonder if this was proof read at all. The lack of any real mathematical content was disappointing and the book itself was unnecessarily long as it contained a lot of detailed history which was almost unrelated to the actual subject.
The calculus wars is an interesting subject and this book just doesn't live up to it.
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