Who invented calculus? The question was a major intellectual controversy between two scholars; Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, which began simmering in 1699. Both mathematicians took claim to discovering calculus.
According to Prof. Surindar. M. Uppal, a Senior Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences, calculus is a concept that underpins many of the greatest ideas about how the universe works. He revealed this during his fourth public lecture dubbed, ‘Who Discovered Calcus? Newton or Leibniz?’ delivered to students, faculty and the members of the public at the JKUAT Main Campus, Juja.
“After the great invention of zero by Aryabhata Brahm-a-gupta in 628 AD which revolutionized the number system, the next marvelous invention was that of calculus which worked wonders in the world of mathematics,” attested Prof. Uppal.
His lecture set out to give deep insights on the doggedly fought dispute in the world history of science between Newton and Leibniz. Some believe that the intellectual dispute was propelled by Newton’s pride, suspicious character, and reluctance to publish which collided with Leibniz’ naive optimism, arrogance, and his belief in “systems” as more valuable than inspiration.
After giving a brief history of the two scientists in relation to the actual discovery and publication of discovery, Prof Uppal concluded that the question of who discovered calculus will never be answered.
He instead said, the world of science should appreciate both mathematicians for their contribution in the field, especially in mathematics and physics, and both men should have shared the honour of being the first to discover calculus just like John Napier and Burgi.
“In the seventeenth century, John Napier from Scotland and Burgi from Switzerland, discovered logarithms independently and both men were happy to share the credit for the discovery with no bitterness,” said Prof. Uppal.
As a piece of history, the controversy serves as a lesson to the modern world that it is perhaps better for great minds to work together instead of trying to undermine each other to avoid stagnation and advancement in their fields.
The lecture was delivered in memory of his late wife, Mrs. Krishna Uppal. A notable feature of these lectures, through the Mrs. Krishna Uppal Education Fund, is the support of needy students. This year, one JKUAT Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Medicine student from Samburu County, benefitted from the fund.
Rose Lengima, a fourth year student received Kshs, 150, 000 to support her university education. Rose aspires to be an excellent doctor, a role model in her community, especially to the young Samburu girls and a change agent in Samburu County.
“It is my desire and dream to provide quality service to my people and to be a shining star, especially to the young people of Samburu, through my career,” said Rose.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, paid a special tribute to the philanthropic nature of the Uppal’s family whose soft spot for education see them spend most of their life promoting the cause.
“I am happy to report that this year, the support has been expanded to include an undergraduate medical student. Indeed, this is not a mean gesture. It takes serious commitment and selflessness to set aside funds towards this cause that many would not,” said Prof. Ngumi.
Prof. Ngumi also urged other scholars to step up and give public lectures in their various fields of specialization. “I encourage you to take advantage of such public fora so that the public can get a feel of the caliber and quality of our products as a University.”
In attendance were Council Member, Gabriel Lengoiboni, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nick Wanjohi and Prof. Uppal’s son, Mr. Rabinder Uppal.