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(2) Dogged by (still unresolved) controversy over whether he plagiarized calculus theory after seeing Isaac Newton's unpublished writings on a 1676 visit to London.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