Life of Leibniz


1. Biographical.  Born July 1, 1646.  Lutheran family.  Father: Notary, Vice Chairman of philosophy, professor of moral philosophy.  Married three times (1st wife gave him two children and died, 2nd died childless).  Father’s third wife was orphaned at 11, brought up by a law professor, had two children: Leibniz and a sister. 

Leibniz was an eager student.  Complaints he read things beyond his age.  Complaints settled by letting him into father’s library at 8.  Read Latin classics and Fathers.  At 15, entered U. of Leipzig.  Bachelor’s dissertation on individuation.  He eventually specialized in law.  Master’s degree at 17, dissertation on legal questions like whether people asleep are “present” and whether bees are wild, claiming we need philosophy to settle things.  Mother died soon.  Intrigues over doctoral degree, given that it led to faculty appointments.  At 20, got doctorate in law (U. of Altdorf) on “difficult cases”.  Thought law always had answers, though sometimes the answers required philosophy.  Declined academic post, thinking that reform of sciences could best be done outside of university. 

2. Chemistry.  Very early, became member of alchemical society.  Later claimed this was based on a spoof letter.  He might have lied about that, though.

3. Political contributions.  Various projects:

4. Other contributions.

5. Mathematics:

6. Physics

7. Church