Who Discovered the Binary System and Arithmetic? Did Leibniz Plagiarize Caramuel?

Sci Eng Ethics. 2018 Feb;24(1):173-188. doi: 10.1007/s11948-017-9890-6. Epub 2017 Mar 9.


Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) is the self-proclaimed inventor of the binary system and is considered as such by most historians of mathematics and/or mathematicians. Really though, we owe the groundwork of today's computing not to Leibniz but to the Englishman Thomas Harriot and the Spaniard Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz (1606-1682), whom Leibniz plagiarized. This plagiarism has been identified on the basis of several facts: Caramuel's work on the binary system is earlier than Leibniz's, Leibniz was acquainted-both directly and indirectly-with Caramuel's work and Leibniz had a natural tendency to plagiarize scientific works.

Keywords: Binary system; Caramuel; Leibniz; Plagiarism.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Famous Persons*
  • Germany
  • History, 17th Century
  • Humans
  • Inventions / history*
  • Mathematics / ethics
  • Mathematics / history*
  • Plagiarism*
  • Spain