Rene Descartes was a French mathematician, philosopher, and scientist. His many contributions in the fields of science, mathematics, rational thought, scientific method, and astrononomy established him as one of the great minds in history. Many consider Descartes as the first of the modern school of mathematics. He is also often called the father of modern philosophy. He was one of the founders of coordinate geomoetry and algebraic notation, and his interest in astronomy led to many of his published works.
Rene Descartes was born March 31, 1596, in a small town in Touraine called La Haye, which was later renamed Descartes in honor of him. He was born into a wealthy, low rank of nobility family, as his father, Joachim, held the position of councillor. This position required his father to spend half the year at Rennes when the local parliament was in session. Rene was the second in a family of two sons and one daughter. However, his mother died when Rene was one, from a lung disease, which he also inherited. With his father often away from home, his grandmother was left to care for him, and he was sent to a Jesuit school at La Fleche at the age of eight. This newly formed school soon became the showcase of Jesuit education and one of the outstanding centers for academic training in Europe. Later, Descartes was proud of the discipline and education he received. Rene was forced to take special actions to care for his health, and so became a vegetarian and began sleeping late. In 1612, Rene left school and went to Paris where he made the acquaintance of a fellow Jesuit, Mydorge, and renewed his schoolboy friendship with a man named Mersenne. He devoted the next two years of his life to mathematics along with these two friends. In 1614, Descartes went to Poitiers, where he took a law degree in 1616. In 1618, he went to Breda in the Netherlands, where he met and established a friendship with the physicist Isaac Beeckman, who encouraged him in science and mathematics. He joined the army, as did most young men, but apparently never saw combat, using the military service as a means of seeing the world.
In 1619, he had three dreams that defined for him his career as a scientist and a philosopher and he later regarded this as the critical day of his life, and one which determined his whole future. At this time, he marveled at mathematics, a science in which he found certainty, necessity, and precision and wondered how he could find a basis for all knowledge so that it might have the same unity and certainty as mathematics. Shortly after this enlightenment, he resigned from the army and began to set out to accomplish his goal of a new and stable basis for all knowledge. By 1620 he had conceived of a universal method of deductive reasoning, applicable to all the sciences. He moved to Holland where he would live for the next twenty years. He led a single, secluded life which consisted of avoiding emotional attachments, and devoting his time to mathematics and philosophy. During this time, he practiced medicine without charge, attempted to increase the longevity of human life, and other various studying to keep himself busy.
After his move to Holland, Descartes began work on his rules for the Direction of the Mind. In 1637, he published a Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Rightly and Searching for Truth in the Sciences. Later, in 1640, Descartes published Meditations on First Philosophy which was regarded with much controversy, and resulted in a publication called Principles of Philosophy. He wrote his last important work, Passions of the Soul, in which he explored the nature of emotion, the relationship of the body to the soul, and the role of the will of an individual in controlling their emotions.
Rene Descartes’ contributions to the mathematical world were of the same merit and excellency as the contributions he made to modern philosphy. He was the first to determine that an equation could be created for every geometric shape and vice versa. He founded Analytic Geometry, and originated the Cartesian coordinates and Cartesian curves. To algebra he contributed the treatment of negative roots and the convention of exponent