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German Men of Ideas: Gottfried Liebnitz (1646-1716)

"Even in the games of children there are things to interest the greatest mathematician."

Field of Study: Philosopher, lawyer, diplomat, self-taught mathematician.

Revolutionary Insight: First published theory of infinitesimal calculus in 1684; notebooks indicate his first equations employed in 1675, just 3 years after first taking up the study of math. Inspired by the classic Chinese text I Ching, invented the binary numerical system, now the basis of all modern computer programming.

Controversy Quotient (0to 5): (2) Dogged by (still unresolved) controversy over whether he plagiarized calculus theory after seeing Isaac Newton's unpublished writings on a 1676 visit to London.

Little Known Fact: In 1891, Hermann Bahlsen introduced a butter cookie named Liebniz-Keks, in honor of the philosopher. It remains the company's most popular product.

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