Popular mathematical history attributes to Isaac Newton (1642–1727) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) the distinction of having invented calculus. Of course, it is not nearly so simple as that. Techniques for evaluating areas and volumes as limits of computable quantities go back to the Greeks of the classical era. The rules for differentiating polynomials and the uses of these derivatives were current before Newton or Leibniz were born. Even the fundamental theorem of calculus, relating integral and differential calculus, was known to Isaac Barrow (1630–1677), Newton’s teacher. Yet it is not inappropriate to date calculus from these two men for they were the first to grasp the power and universal applicability of the fundamental theorem of calculus. They were the first to see an inchoate collection of results as the body of a single unified theory.
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David M. Bressoud
- Springer New York
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