Word of the Day: Calculus

If you haven’t taken a calculus class, you’ve probably heard this word and felt some trepidation. Why do we have calculus? Why do scientists need to learn it? Why is it important?

Calculus is a branch of mathematics dedicated to the study of how things change. Scientists use calculus to make mathematical models of systems where there is change, such as climate or chemical reactions. They can then use these models to make predictions about what will happen in these systems. Calculus was a special moment in the history of mathematics as it allowed mathematicians and scientists the ability to deal with variables whose values change rather than measuring a single instance in time.

Calculus was simultaneously invented in the 17th century by two men, independently – Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton. It was a great controversy of the time and they continued to fight over it for the remainder of their lives.

Here is a link to an MIT website explaining even more about Calculus, entitled “What is Calculus and Why do We Study It?”