René Descartes invented analytical geometry và introduced skepticism as an essential part of the scientific method. He is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers in history.

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His analytical geometry was a tremendous conceptual breakthrough, linking the previously separate fields of geometry và algebra. Descartes showed that he could solve previously unsolvable problems in geometry by converting them into simpler problems in algebra. He represented the horizontal direction as x and the vertical direction as y. This concept is now indispensable in mathematics và other sciences.


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Beginnings

René Descartes was born into a well-educated, upper-class family on March 31, 1596 in the French village of La Haye en Touraine. The village is now called Descartes, Indre-et-Loire in his honor.

René’s father was Joachim Descartes, a lawyer at Brittany’s Court of Justice. His mother was Jeanne Brochard, daughter of the Lieutenant General of Poitiers. René was their third child.

A year after René’s birth his mother & her fourth child died during childbirth.

René’s father’s worked six months of the year in the Court of Justice in Rennes, about 200 miles (300 km) from their home. René was raised by his grandmother và his great-uncle. His father remarried when René was four and began living in Rennes permanently. Despite this, there was always affection between René & his father.

From birth René suffered poor health & had a permanent cough. Local doctors thought he would not survive infancy. His father employed a nurse who devoted herself khổng lồ René’s care. As an adult he believed his nurse saved his life – he paid her a permanent pension.

Education

At the age of about ten or eleven René was finally considered healthy enough to lớn begin school. He boarded at the Jesuit School at La Flèche in Anjou. In a concession lớn his delicate health he was allowed khổng lồ rise later in the morning than other students.

René spent seven or eight years at La Flèche learning logic, theology, philosophy, Latin và Greek. In his final two years he also learned mathematics and physics. The physics was that of Aristotle – almost entirely wrong.

He was a boy of prodigious curiosity, asking questions endlessly.

René learned something of Galileo’s work including his recent amazing discovery of Jupiter’s moons. At this time, Galileo had still not published his greatest works overturning Aristotle’s physics; his trouble with the Catholic Church lay in the future.

At the age of 18, in 1614, René Descartes left La Flèche. Later he recorded his thoughts about his education as follows:

On Mathematics


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An experiment is a question which science poses to lớn Nature, và a measurement is the recording of Nature’s answer.

In 1654 Otto von Guericke constructed the first vacuum pump. In 1662 Robert Boyle demonstrated that the magnetic force can travel through a vacuum, establishing that action at a distance is possible.

Unfortunately Descartes did not live long enough khổng lồ learn of these developments.

Some Personal Details & the End

Descartes was wealthy enough khổng lồ pursue his own interests. His father gifted him a number of properties which Descartes, at the age of 24, sold. This raised enough money for him lớn live on comfortably for the rest of his life.

Descartes spent much of his life on the move. He lived for trăng tròn of his later years in various locations in Holland. He also studied & taught mathematics there. He found he could work better in Holland, with fewer distractions than in France.

Although he never married, in 1635, aged 39, he became a father. His partner was an Amsterdam servant, Helena Jans van der Strom. Their daughter was named Francine. Mother & daughter lived with Descartes in his house – he told people Francine was his niece. He planned khổng lồ educate his daughter in France, but sadly, at the age of five, she died of scarlet fever. Francine’s mother later got married, with Descartes playing a fatherly role by paying the wedding dowry.

In 1649 Descartes was invited khổng lồ Stockholm by Queen Christina of Sweden. She wanted him to set up a new academy of science.

René Descartes died, aged 53, of pneumonia in Stockholm on February, 11 1650. He was buried at the Adolf Fredriks Church in Stockholm.

In death, as in life, Descartes was mobile. 16 years after his first burial his remains were moved và buried in the Saint-Ètienne-du-Mont church in Paris, France. In 1819 his remains minus skull & finger were moved again, this time lớn the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Près in Paris, where he now rests.

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In 1663, despite his efforts khổng lồ avoid such a fate – he regarded himself as a devout Catholic – a number of Descartes’ works joined Galileo’s on the index of books prohibited by the Catholic Church. Over 300 years later, in 1966, this index was finally discontinued.


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"René Descartes." Famous Scientists. rongnhophuyen.com. 16 Jun. 2016. Web. .Published by rongnhophuyen.com

Further ReadingRené DescartesThe Method Meditations & PhilosophyM. Walter Dunne, Washington & London, 1901

Elizabeth S. HaldaneDescartes: His Life và TimesJohn Murray, London, 1905

René Descarte, translators David E. Smith & Marcia L. LathamThe GeometryDover Publications Inc. 1954