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Who Invented Calculus? Uncovering the History of Mathematics

Editorial Team
Updated May 17, 2024

There's nothing quite like the power of calculus to explain the complexities of the natural world. From predicting the trajectories of objects in motion to understanding how populations change over time, calculus plays a major role in helping us make sense of the world. But before calculus could become the powerful tool it is today, it had to be invented, refined, and developed by some of the brightest minds in history. In this article, we'll explore the history of calculus and take a look at the lives of some of the mathematicians who helped shape it. Let's get started!

What Is Calculus?

Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with the study of change and motion. It includes two major sub-fields: differential calculus and integral calculus. Differential calculus focuses on the rate of change, or the derivative, of a function, while integral calculus deals with the accumulation of change, or the sum of an infinite number of infinitesimal parts. By combining these two branches, researchers and mathematicians are able to understand the properties of functions, develop equations that describe physical phenomena, and solve problems in a variety of disciplines.

Calculus is used in many areas of mathematics, including the calculus of variations, vector calculus, and multivariable calculus. It has also been applied to areas outside mathematics, such as physics, engineering, economics, and medicine. In recent years, calculus has been used to solve problems in fields such as computer graphics, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Really, any problem that involves change or motion can be solved using the principles of calculus.

Who Invented Calculus?

The problem with this question is that there arguably isn't a single answer to it. Calculus has been around for hundreds of years, and while its rudimentary forms may have been discovered back in the 1600s, it is credited to more than one person. We'll list these individuals below and explain the fundamental role they each played in developing calculus as we know it today.

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was a mathematician and scientist who lived from 1642 to 1727. He had a hand in forging numerous scientific discoveries throughout the 17th century, the most well-known being gravity.

But Newton is also largely credited with the invention of calculus in 1664. Upon studying the speeds of falling objects and their rates of change, Newton realized that calculus was the best way to explain and predict these phenomena. He formed the basis of calculus by creating a system of equations to track the changes in motion and then applying it to his theories of motion. By combining physics and math in this way, Newton was able to make huge leaps in understanding the laws of nature and pave the way for future physicists. His revised theory was first published in 1676.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician who lived from 1646 to 1716. He made an independent discovery of calculus in the 1670s and employed a different language and notation system than Newton.

There was a large dispute at the time over who came up with the concept of calculus first. While both men discovered the discipline around the same time, Sir Isaac Newton is said to be the first person to actually begin researching and publishing work.

Gottfried Leibniz's first paper on calculus was reportedly written in 1669, five years after Newton's initial discovery. Performing most of the research himself, he revised and developed his version of calculus throughout the 1670s and then finally published a paper in 1684.

Although Leibniz was technically second to Newton, his research on calculus made a huge impact in its own right. He used symbols and notations that are still employed in mathematics today, including the integral sign, which he designed himself.

Jacob Bernoulli 

Jacob Bernoulli, also known as James or Jacques Bernoulli, was a Swiss mathematician who lived from 1655 to 1705. He was one of many prominent mathematicians in his family, but ultimately made a name for himself through his groundbreaking work in calculus' formative years.

Bernoulli is most well-known for being the first person to use the term, which he wrote about in 1690. He also used the term "derivative" and is credited with inventing the mathematical constant e, which is still used today in many areas of mathematics and engineering.

Although he wasn't the first to discover calculus, Bernoulli played a major role in helping it evolve. His first important work, a pamphlet on the parallels of algebra and logic, was published in 1685.

Final Thoughts

Calculus is a major branch of mathematics that has been around for centuries, and its history is often intertwined with the lives and discoveries of prominent mathematicians. While Isaac Newton is credited with the first invention of calculus, it was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Jacob Bernoulli, and many others who further developed and refined the discipline throughout the century. Without these pioneers of mathematics, the world would look very different. Their discoveries are a testament to how much we can learn from the past and use it to shape our future.

Although learning calculus can be difficult, with the assistance of a qualified calculus tutor, you can unlock its mysteries and discover a whole new world of mathematics. The process can be made simpler and more enjoyable with the help of an experienced calculus tutor, from grasping the fundamentals to mastering the most complex concepts. Finding the right tutor can make all the difference, whether you're just getting started or trying to brush up on your calculus skills.

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Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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