Rene Descartes

March 31 1596- February 11 1650

Early Years and Mathematical Training

  • Born March 31, 1596 in La Haye en Touraine, France
  • His mother died when he was one year old
  • Was introduced to mathematics and physics in 1607 at the Jesuit College Royal Henry-Le-Grand
  • After graduating in December 1616, he studied at the University of Poitiers earning a degree and license in law to please his father
  • Wanted to become a professional military officer so in 1618 he joined the Army of Breda under the command of Maurice of Nassau in the Dutch Republic
  • Undertook a formal study of military engineering and received much encouragement to advance his knowledge of mathematics
  • He believed it was necessary to create a method that linked mathematics and physics

Accomplishments and Later Years

  • His contribution to mathematics was the Cartesian coordinate system (allowing reference to a point in space as numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system)
  • He is known as the father of analytical geometry
  • His findings were crucial to the discovery of calculus and analysis
  • He was also a prominent figure in the scientific revolution
  • He is best known for the philosophical statement "I think, therefore I am."
  • Died on February 11, 1650 in Sweden as a guest at the house of the French ambassador (he had been invited by the Queen of Sweden to tutor her)
  • Died of pneumonia