History of Computers - Gottfried Leibniz

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Gottfried Leibniz was a German polymath who made many influential contributions to the development of computers. Among them are binary, an early calculator known as the Stepped Reckoner, and algorithmic information theory; some of his ideas anticipated the idea of the Turing Machine, all important concepts in the history of computer technology.


Leibniz was born on July 1, 1646 in Leipzig, Germany. His father died when he was six, and left him a large personal library, which Leibniz was able to access from age 7 onwards. His mother taught him moral and religious values as a child, which could have a deep impact on his philosophical thoughts later in life. He believed greatly in symbols, and believed people need them to better understand different mathematics, such as calculus. He invented the binary system, which was important to computers because it is now used in almost all computer architectures, and the calculus ratiocinator, which anticipated mathematical logic, and could be used as a computer program to grant primacy to calculations. [1] He attended university at age 14 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. He received a master's degree in 1664. He served the Duke of Hanover from 1676 onward; it was during this time that the majority of his work was done. Leibniz died on November 14, 1716. [2]


Early in his life, Leibniz documented the binary system, which forms the basis of information transfer and function in computers. He worked with the binary system for the rest of his career. The system is important because using it instead of the decimal system simplifies the design of computers and related technologies. [3] In 1671, Leibniz began working on a Stepped Reckoner, a machine that could perform the four basic arithmetic operations. The Reckoner was an early digital mechanical calculator and the first to be able to multiply and divide, operations that Pascal and Schickard's calculators could not perform.[4] Lastly, Leibniz conceived the idea of a calculus ratiocinator, a concept similar to that of the universal Turing Machine.






  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Leibniz
  2. http://mally.stanford.edu/leibniz.html
  3. Binary Numbers and Binary Math.
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepped_Reckoner