Who Deserves Credit for Calculus: Newton or Leibniz?


Your mission is to investigate the history of the calculus. The controversy rages today, and we need your super sleuth and analytic mind to get to the bottom of it. Historical evidence concludes that modern calculus seems to have its origins in either Sir Isaac Newton’s or Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz’s hands. Or maybe the answer is slightly more complicated. We don’t know! AAACK! We need your help!

You are going to need to produce a clear 3 paragraph editorial on who should be given the most kudos for inventing calculus. Who came up with the “main points of discovery?” Why do you conclude that?

To assist you in this daunting task, I have provided some links seen to the right.  Maybe they will help you? But you can also use anything (credible) you find on the web. This WebQuest will be harder than it looks; however, I am hoping you gain a historical perspective of calculus.  One thing I think you need to do in order to keep yourselves organized is to

  • make a list of pros and cons for Newton and Leibniz, to organize your thoughts and findings.
Yes, as a serious journalist you are going to have to do some serious work. You’re going to have to pour through webpages. It might help to keep your eyes peeled for the names Newton and Leibniz (obviously)
Here are a few points of advice.
  • An editorial is an opinion. But it is one based on on a lot of (credible) supporting evidence.
  • Cite your sources for each fact come across! I’d bookmark each webpage, so you have them somewhere in case something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Here are some questions to think about when organizing your search — but you’re going to have dig deep to find the answers to these questions.

  • What is calculus, really? (We talked briefly about it.) This will be useful in setting the stage.
  • Newton wrote letters to Leibniz. State one interesting thing he said. This might be useful in terms of finding supporting evidence for one position or the other.
  • When did Leibniz send a letter to Newton concerning the use of differentials?
  • What did you find to be the most interesting or surprising fact about the rise of calculus? Why is it interesting to you? If it is interesting to you, it might very well be interesting to your readers! You might want to start that out as your lead.
  • What was the very first step in the rise of calculus? Does that make a difference in who gets the most credit?
  • On a timeline of the rise of calculus, what do you think was the most important fact?