Rene Descartes

Thus what I thought I had seen with my eyes, I actually grasped solely with the faculty of judgment, which is in my mind.~Descartes

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René Descartes was born in Tours, France on March 31st, 1596 the second son to a well off family. When he turned 8 he was sent to the Jesuit college of La Flèche in Anjou and studied there until he was 16. Descartes chose to focus on mathematics but he would later contribute not only to math but other areas of science and philosophy. After attending the Jesuit college he went to Paris to complete a law degree from the University of Portiers.

Descartes after completing school spent a few years touring Europe and joined the Bavarian army for a brief time. In 1618 he began to study under the Dutch scientist Isaac Beeckman in the areas of mathematics and mechanics which made him decide to pursue the idea unifying nature with science.

He settled down in Holland ultimately and began work on the theory that a given point on a plane could be determined by the use of perpendicular lines on a plane from two different axes that reach the point. Positive and negative values could be used and that through an equation:

f(x,y) = 0

The values x and y could be used as coordinates. A number of coordinates could be used to express a curve and every point of the curve. In short Descartes began the development of the Cartesian Plane. Descartes also looked into how a person could calculate the slope of a curve and developed the tangent and the formula for a tangent:

y = mx + c

René Descartes ended his life working as tutor for Queen Christina of Sweden and died of pneumonia on February 11th, 1650. Descartes was overall described as being a man with cold and selfish disposition but despite his character flaws there is no doubt the man revolutionized analytical geometry.

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O'Conner, J.J (1997, 12). Rene Descartes . Retrieved February 25, 2008, from MacTutor Web site: http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Descartes.html

Burham, B. Rene Descartes. (2006). In Internet Encylopedia of Philosphy [Web]. Retrieved February 25 2007, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/descarte.html

Sorell, T (2000). Descartes: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press

Wilkins, D.R. Rene Descartes. Retrieved February 25, 2008, from A Short Account of the History of Mathematics Web site: http://www.maths.tcd.ie/pub/HistMath/People/Descartes/RouseBall/RB_Descartes.html

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