Great Minds Think Alike

IN MY SCHOOLDAYS BACK IN MY HOMETOWN OF NEW DELHI, INDIA, my favorite subjects other than the English language and its rich literature were mathematics and science. When it came to math I was fond of calculus; when science, chemistry took center stage for me over physics. Later on, as a university student in London, I could be found occupying the lab outside lecture time and tinkering with various chemical formulae –  sometimes leading to explosive results!

I was also – and still am now – an avid daily crosswords addict. And to my joy it was just on a Wednesday morning this month that I completed Andrew Kingsley‘s puzzle in the New York Times: I found it – in terms of difficulty – more akin to a Thursday’s effort while it teased out with innovation a well-known phrase by citing the names of creators who were famous for their world-renowned inventions and/or discoveries.

What excited my interest most were those great men responsible for creating calculus and the periodic table, namely, Isaac Newton & Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz on the one hand ……………


<—Sir Isaac Newton
English scientist December 25, 1642 –
March 20, 1726

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz—>
German scientist
July 1, 1646 –
November 14, 1716

……and Mendeleev & Meyer on the other.

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev
February 8, 1834 – February 2, 1907


Julius Lothar Meyer
August 19, 1830 – April 11, 1895

Mendeleev, a Russian chemist. formulated the Periodic Law, created a farsighted version of the periodic table of elements, and used it to correct the properties of some already discovered elements and also to predict the properties of eight elements yet to be discovered.

Meyer. a German chemist, was one of the pioneers in developing the first periodic table of chemical elements. He never used his first given name, and was known throughout his life simply as Lothar Meyer. He is best known for his part in the periodic classification of the elements. He noted that if each element is arranged in the order of their atomic weights, they fall into groups of similar chemical and physical properties repeated at periodic intervals. According to him, if the atomic weights were plotted as ordinates and the atomic volumes as abscissae—the curve obtained a series of maxima and minima—the most electro-positive elements appearing at the peaks of the curve in the order of their atomic weights.

HE SAID, HE SAID
I assume it’s human nature as long as Man has occupied this blessed Earth of ours that even the most brilliant of us who come up with a life-changing idea look suspiciously at a contemporary who matches – and sometimes exceeds – the other innovator in terms of sheer ingenuity and imagination, leading to a face-off bordering on hostility and name-calling. And so it was with the first pair of scientists delineated above as summarized here:

Newton v. Leibniz:
Most modern historians believe that
Newton and Leibniz developed calculus independently, although with very different notations. Occasionally it has been suggested that Newton published almost nothing about it until 1693, and did not give a full account until 1704, while Leibniz began publishing a full account of his methods in 1684.

Starting in 1699, other members of the Royal Society (of which Newton was a member) accused Leibniz of plagiarism. The dispute then broke out in full force in 1711 when the Royal Society proclaimed in a study that it was Newton who was the true discoverer and labelled Leibniz a fraud. This study was cast into doubt when it was later found that Newton himself wrote the study’s concluding remarks on Leibniz. Thus began the bitter controversy which marred the lives of both Newton and Leibniz until the latter’s death in 1716.

Afterword:
By the way, other notables cited by cruciverbalist Mr. Kingsley in different spheres of science and technology were Edison & Swan (light bulb), and Szilard & Rotblat (atom bomb).

References: My Diary; Wikipedia; Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell

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