Rene Descartes

This essay Rene Descartes has a total of 835 words and 4 pages.

Rene Descartes


Rene Descartes was born March 31, 1596 in La Haye, Touraine. Descartes was the
son of a minor nobleman and belonged to a family that had produced a number of
learned men. At the age of eight, he was enrolled in the Jesuit school of La
Fleche in Anjou, where he remained for eight years. Besides the usual classical
studies, he received instruction in math and in Scholastic philosophy. Roman
Catholicism exerted a strong influence on Descartes throughout his life. Upon
graduation from school, he studied law at the University of Poitiers, graduating
in 1616. He never practiced law, however--in 1618 he entered the service of
Prince Maurice of Nassau at Breda, Netherlands, with the intention of following
a military career. In succeeding years Descartes served in other armies, but
his attention had already been attracted to the problems of mathematics and
philosophy to which he was to devote the rest of his life. He made a pilgrimage
to Italy in 1623-24, and spent the years from 1624 to 1628 in France. While in
France, he devoted himself to the study of philosophy and also experimented in
optics. In 1628, having sold his properties in France, he moved to the
Netherlands, where he spent most of the rest of his life. He lived for varying
periods in a number of different cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam,
Deventer, Utrecht, and Leiden.
It was probably during the first years of his residence in the
Netherlands that Descartes wrote his first major work, Essais philosophiques,
published in 1637. The work contained four parts: an essay on geometry,
another on optics, a third on meteors, and Discours de la methode (Discourse on
Method), which described his philosophical theories. This was followed by other
philosophical works, among them Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (Meditations
on First Philosophy, 1641) and Principia Philosophiae (The Principles of
Philosophy, 1644). The latter volume was dedicated to Princess Elizabeth Stuart
of Bohemia, who lived in the Netherlands and with whom Descartes had formed a
deep friendship. In 1649, Descartes was invited to the court of Queen Christina
of Sweden in Stockholm to give the queen instruction in philosophy. The rigors
of the northern winter brought on the pneumonia that caused his death on
February 1, 1650.
The most notable contribution that Descartes made to mathematics was the
systematization of analytic geometry. He was the first m

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