B.Lakin-René Descartes

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B.Lakin-René Descartes

ResourcesPictures and video from:http://bear-in-mind2908.blogspot.com/2012/10/i-think-therefore-i-am.htmlhttp://www.graydonkey.com/contact-lenses-from-leonardo-to-silicone/http://faculty.wlc.edu/buelow/PRC/nt1-3.htmhttps://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=rene+descartesOther Sources:Boyer, C. (1991). The Time of Fermat and Descartes. In A History of Mathematics (2nd ed., pp. 335-348). Brooklyn: John Wiley ' Sons.Going Places with Mathematics. (2014, January 1). Retrieved from http://nrich.maths.org/2570René Descartes. (2014, January 1). Retrieved from http://www.famous-mathematicians.com/rene-descartes/René Descartes. (2002, January 1). Retrieved from http://www.renedescartes.com/René Descartes (1596-1650). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://home.wlu.edu/~mahonj/Descartes.Bio.htm

Early Years

College Life

René Descartes was born in La Haye, a town south of France on March 31st, 1596. His parents were Joachim and Jeanne Descartes, but during René's childhood his mother died from giving birth. René also had his own health issues which were described as "infirmary of the lungs." He had a brother and sister, and once his father remarried, he also had a half brother and sister. René's father was a noble Councilor of Parliament and encouraged René to gain an extensive education. At the age of 8, René attended Jesuit College of Henri IV in La Fléche where he studied literature, grammar, science, and mathematics. With his father's support and an extensive education, René was provided with a successful path towards knowledge.

In 1614 René left La Fléche to study law at Poitiers. While earning his law degree, he also studied philosophy, theology, and medicine. Throughout his life he also studied at the University of Franeker and the University of Leiden, where with encouragement of other scholars, decided to focus on philosophy and mathematics exploration.


Descartes is known as "the father of Analytical Geometry" because of his ideas that showcased how algebra equations can be used and expressed in geometry. He is most notable for his creation of the Cartesian coordinate system, which is named after him. The system focuses on the representation of unknown variables used in equations that are noted as x,y, and z, a concept still used to this day! René's accomplishments changed mathematics by shifting the focus of exploration from casual exploration to that of a more rationalistic approach that provided a concrete foundation. The Cartesian coordinate system is used today by the military, rescue services, and air traffic controllers. Descartes is also known for his extensive work in Philosophy with his accomplishment with "Principles of Philosophy" and many other works. He also discovered laws pertaining to reflection and refraction in concerns to optics.

Later Years

Cartesian Coordinate System developed by Descartes

Desartes' drawings of optic studies

Descartes left France in1628 to move to Holland after spending a short time in Prince Maurice's Army. In Holland, Descartes continued working in both Philosophy and Mathematics. During his era, France was the undisputed mathematical center during the 17th century. One of his greatest breakthroughs was his "Principles of Philosophy" that focused on seeking the truth in science, mediations, and doubt. Descartes changed both the fields of Philosophy and Mathematics by focusing on the rational thought process. This can be noted in his famous quote: "I think, therefore I am." Descartes died in 1650 in Sweden.

René DescartesThe "Father of Analytical Geometry"

Interesting FactDescartes described that many of his ideas came to him in dreams. He also accredits trying to define the location of a fly on his ceiling as his inspiration for the creation of the Cartesian coordinate system.


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