calculus, branch of mathematics that studies continuously changing quantities. The calculus is characterized by the use of infinite processes, involving passage to a limit—the notion of tending toward, or approaching, an ultimate value. The English physicist Isaac Newton and the German mathematician G. W. Leibniz, working independently, developed the calculus during the 17th cent. The calculus and its basic tools of differentiation and integration serve as the foundation for the larger branch of mathematics known as analysis. The methods of calculus are essential to modern physics and to most other branches of modern science and engineering.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Mathematics