I just read a fascinating account of 18th century politics, philosophy, romantic intrigues, and mathematical physics. I thought of posting in Cafe Society: This long essay touches on a variety of topics as well as mathematics and physics. (Some will want to skim the math; others will want to skim the political intrigues.) It offers perspective on the Newton vs Leibniz controversy, e.g. explaining why Voltaire wanted to ridicule Leibniz with Pangloss’ “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”
Here’s a brief excerpt showing how deep the essay goes into personal intricacies:
Not only does the essay mention the great mathematicians of that era, but it mentions Richelieu, Voltaire, Bach, and Benj. Franklin.
The title of the essay is “The Courage of Gauss: A Case Study of the Best of All Possible Worlds.” Gauss wasn’t even born during the events described in the essay but the essayist regards Gauss as the great genius-hero who finally rescued Europe from Maupertuis’ intrigues by restoring attention to Leibnizian truths!
The essay is a very dense 33 pages; I’m going to print it off and reread it before I can discuss it properly. I’m posting this here to ask for opinions: Is the essay fun to read? Enlightening? Valid? The author—David Shavin—doesn’t seem to even have a Wikipedia page; Who is he?