Leibniz on Binary
The Invention of Computer Arithmetic
248 pp., 7 x 10 in, 28 b&w illus.
- Published: October 25, 2022
The first collection of Leibniz's key writings on the binary system, newly translated, with many previously unpublished in any language.
The polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) is known for his independent invention of the calculus in 1675. Another major—although less studied—mathematical contribution by Leibniz is his invention of binary arithmetic, the representational basis for today's digital computing. This book offers the first collection of Leibniz's most important writings on the binary system, all newly translated by the authors with many previously unpublished in any language. Taken together, these thirty-two texts tell the story of binary as Leibniz conceived it, from his first youthful writings on the subject to the mature development and publication of the binary system.
As befits a scholarly edition, Strickland and Lewis have not only returned to Leibniz's original manuscripts in preparing their translations, but also provided full critical apparatus. In addition to extensive annotations, each text is accompanied by a detailed introductory “headnote” that explains the context and content. Additional mathematical commentaries offer readers deep dives into Leibniz's mathematical thinking. The texts are prefaced by a lengthy and detailed introductory essay, in which Strickland and Lewis trace Leibniz's development of binary, place it in its historical context, and chart its posthumous influence, most notably on shaping our own computer age.
"A wonderful book that explains both the significance and scope of Leibniz' binary arithmetic using original sources. The authors' clear exposition makes the genesis of binary arithmetic accessible to everyone."
Bharath Sriraman, Professor of Mathematics, University of Montana - Missoula; Editor of The Handbook of the Mathematics of the Arts and Sciences, Springer Nature
"Strickland and Lewis present Leibniz's development of binary through lovingly typeset translations of his papers, notes and letters, together with a contextual narrative that is both well-researched and quite enjoyable.”
Simson Garfinkel, co-author of The Computer Book: From the Abacus to Artificial Intelligence, 250 Milestones in the History of Computing
“Leibniz on Binary enhances our understanding of how binary arithmetic was developed and sheds light on the intellectual workings of one of the inventors of the modern age.”
Jim Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and CTO, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
“A fascinating read for anyone interested in how rationality combined with religious passion. This eminently readable translation highlights bold connections of newly invented binary algorithms with mechanization of thought, Chinese hexagrams, and creation out of nothing.”
Slava Gerovitch, author of From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics
"This book is a model of how the history of computer science and mathematics should be written. Leibniz pointed out the importance of putting ourselves into the place of others, and here we get to put ourselves into the shoes of Leibniz himself, as we're treated to dozens of his private notes, carefully translated into idiomatic English and thoroughly explained."
Donald E. Knuth, Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming, Stanford University