Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a prominent German polymath and philosopher during the 17th and 18th centuries. Born in 1646 and deceased in 1716, he made significant contributions to a multitude of fields, including philosophy, mathematics, logic, history, political theory, law, and theology.
In philosophy, he’s best known for his optimism, the idea that we live in “the best of all possible worlds.” He developed this idea in the context of his metaphysical system which involved the concepts of monads (elementary particles with blurred perceptions of one another), pre-established harmony (the idea that all monads independently follow a pre-determined course), and the principle of sufficient reason (the idea that nothing happens without a reason).
In mathematics, Leibniz is credited (alongside Sir Isaac Newton) with developing infinitesimal calculus, which is a key tool in mathematics and physics. He also anticipated modern logic and analytic philosophy, with his work on the principle of non-contradiction and the identity of indiscernibles.
Leibniz was also a prolific inventor. He designed several calculating machines, refined the binary number system, which would later become the foundation of virtually all digital computers, and proposed ideas related to physics, engineering, and even life insurance.
Leibniz was deeply engaged with the leading intellectuals of his time and exchanged letters with more than 600 correspondents. Despite the breadth and depth of his work, he held only minor political roles during his lifetime and was largely unrecognized by the academic community. Only posthumously did he gain the recognition he deserved as one of the greatest thinkers of his era.