Biography Of Rene Descartes And His Contribution To Geometry
Rene Descartes was born in March of 1596 in La Haye, France. He was raised in a relatively privileged life compared to others in this time as his father was a lawyer. His mother died when he was a little over a year old, forcing him to live with his grandmother on his mother’s side for the first several years of his life along with his two older siblings Pierre and Jeanne. He attended grammar school and studied philosophy curriculum from approximately 1606 to 1615 at the Jesuit College of La Fleche. This was a college founded only a few years prior to his attendance in northwest France.
There, he learned grammar in both Latin and Greek for several years. Then, he was taught the ideas of Aristotle as these were considered the most prestigious and advanced of the time period. He was also presented the ideas of Cicero, Plato, and Galileo while at Jesuit. This education set the foundation for his accomplishments later in life. He also followed in his father’s footsteps by obtaining a law degree around 1614. Through his early life, however, Descartes struggled with identity. He aimed to do great things from a young age, and even rebranded himself as “Poitevin” (meaning from Poitou, the place where he inherited a small plot of farmland) when he started to be introduced to influential people. However, he later referenced back to his true place of origin when he started to write books.
Descartes is known as the “father of analytic geometry. ” He is credited with the creation of ideas about lines, measurements of lines, graphs, and equations based on ratios between line segments. He worked alongside Isaac Beeckman, a famous physicist at the time. In 1619, he invented analytic geometry. Descartes formulated a method for using algebra to solve geometric problems and vice versa. Up until this point, most problems in geometry were solved by manually graphing the problem by hand. However, this quickly got difficult with more sophisticated problems. Descartes made it possible to use algebraic ratios and division to plot points and get information about lines and shapes. He furthered this idea with the creation of the Cartesian coordinate system. This is known by almost everyone today, and consists of an x and y axis with points that allow for exact plotting. This is the basis for all of geometry today. More importantly, this allowed for more advanced ideas to come into fruition and further mathematics as a whole. He also focused on the construction of geometric problems through algebraic equations. He made it his goal to find patterns for the constructions and why different equations caused graphs to change. In 1628, he discovered the relationship between constructing cubics and quartics through the use of a parabola. Descartes was quick to boast of his findings to Beeckman through a letter that he wrote. This idea gave way to finding the geometric meaning of solutions to algebraic equations.
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