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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (also known as von Leibniz) was a prominent German mathematician, philosopher, physicist and statesman. Noted for his independent invention of the differential and integral calculus, Gottfried Leibniz remains one of the greatest and most influential metaphysicians, thinkers and logicians in history. He also invented the Leibniz wheel and suggested important theories about force, energy and time.
Early Life and Education:
Gottfried Lelbniz was born in Leipzig, endeavor Germany to influential parents. His father, a professor of moral philosophy at the city’s university, died when Leibniz was only six. His mother was the daughter of a rich local lawyer.
Leibniz was a childhood prodigy. He became fluent in Latin and studied works of Greeks scholars such as when he was only twelve. He entered the University of Leipzig when he was fourteen, where he took philosophy, mathematics and law.
After graduation, he applied for a doctorate in law, but was refused due to his young age. Leibniz chose to present his thesis to the University of Altdorf, where professors were so impressed that they immediately awarded him the degree of Doctor of Laws and gave him a job of professorship.
Contributions and Achievements:
Gottfried Leibniz was a great polymath who knew almost everything that could be known at the time about any subject or intellectual enterprise. He made important contributions to philosophy, engineering, physics, law, politics, philology and theology.
Probably his greatest achievement was the discovery of a new mathematical method called calculus. Scientists use to deal with quantities that are constantly varying. Newton had devised a similar method for his work on gravity. Therefore, there was a harsh debate about who had been first.
Newton began working on his version in 1665, but Leibniz published his results in 1684, almost three years before Newton. However, the consensus is that they discovered the method simultaneously.
Leibniz also discovered the binary number system and invented the first calculating machine that could add, subtract, multiply and divide. When it came to metaphysics, he formulated the famous theory of monads which explained the relation between soul and the body. Leibniz is often known as the founder of symbolic logic as he developed the universal characteristic, a symbolic language in which any item of information can be represented in a natural and systematic way.
Later Life and Death:
Gottfried Leibniz died in Hanover on November 14, 1716. He was 70 years old.
“Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you can’t do it. In my day I was told women didn’t go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn’t.” – Gertrude B. Elion
American pharmacologist and biochemist, Gertrude B. Elion is famous for her scientific discovery of drugs to treat leukemia and herpes and to prevent the rejection of kidney transplants. This discovery earned her Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988 which she shared with George H. Hitchings, her long-time boss and collaborator at Burroughs-Wellcome, and also Sir James W. Black. After receiving the Nobel Prize she once said:
“People ask me often (was) the Nobel Prize the thing you were aiming for all your life? And I say that would be crazy. Nobody would aim for a Nobel Prize because, if you didn’t get it, your whole life would be wasted. What we were aiming at was getting people well, and the satisfaction of that is much greater than any prize you can get.”
She is holder of 45 patents, 23 honorary degrees, and a lengthy list of other honors. She was unmarried.
Early Life, Education and Career:
Gertrude Elion was born in New York City on January 23, 1918 to immigrant parents. She completed her graduation from Hunter College with a B.A. degree in chemistry in 1937. During this time she also planned to become a cancer researcher but for several years worked as a lab assistant, food analyst (tested pickles and berries for quality at the Quaker Maid Company), and high school teacher while studying for her Masters degree at night. She completed her M.S. in chemistry from New York University in 1941.
When World War II broke out, there was an urgent need for women at scientific laboratories so she left to work as an assistant to George H. Hitchings at the Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company (now GlaxoSmithKline). She never obtained a formal Ph.D., but was later awarded an honorary Ph.D from Polytechnic University of New York in 1989 and honorary SD degree from Harvard University in 1998.
While working with H. Hitchings, Elion helped develop the first drugs to combat leukemia, herpes, and AIDS, and established new research methods to produce drugs that could target specific pathogens. The medicines she developed include acyclovir (for herpes), allopurinol (for gout), azathioprine (which limits rejection in organ transplants), purinethol (for leukemia), pyrimethamine (for malaria), and trimethoprim (for meningitis and bacterial infections).
During 1967 she occupied the position of the head of the company’s Department of Experimental Therapy and officially retired in 1983. Despite her retirement, Elion continued working almost full time at the lab, and oversaw the adaptation of azidothymidine (AZT), which became the first drug used for treatment of AIDS.
Gertrude Elion died in North Carolina on February 21, 1999. She was always admired by a number of students and colleagues for her brilliancy and dedication to science.