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A Short Essay About Rene Descartes Written For My College Algebra Class

865 words - 3 pages

Rene DescartesThe French mathematician Rene Descartes was born on 31 March 1596 in LaHaye (now Descartes), Touraine, France. At the age of eight, he entered the JesuitCollege at La Fleche where he developed a lasting interest in mathematics. He studiedvarious subjects until he left in 1612. Ironically, attending school had made Descartesunderstand how little he knew. He discovered that the only subject satisfactory in hiseyes was the study of mathematics. This idea became the foundation for his way ofthinking. He believed that all science could be unified by the application of reason inmathematics.After studying law at the University of Poiters and receiving his degree in 1616, heentered a military school where he continued his studies in mathematics. Then, hespent a short period of time traveling before joining the army in 1620. Following histime with the military, he settled in Holland and began his writings.His first works took 4 years to complete. It was titled Le Monde, ou Traite de laLumiere. This work attempted to give a physical theory of the universe. It was adangerous subject on which to publish in this day and age since this kind of theory wentagainst church belief. When news reached Descartes that Galileo was condemned tohouse arrest due to his own publications, he decided not to publish his works for fear ofpunishment.He then worked for years on his Discours de la methode pour bien conduire saraison et chercher la veritie dans les sciences or "Discourse of the Method of ProperlyGuiding the Reason in the Search of Truth in the Sciences." This work contained threeappendices, one of which was La Geometrie. In La Geometrie he describes his methodthat should be applied when knowledge is sought in any scientific field. It consists of (a)accepting only what is clear in one's own mind as to exclude and doubt, (b) splittinglarge difficulties into smaller ones, (c ) arguing from the simple to the complex, and(d) checking, when one is done.Also in La Geometrie, he describes that a point in a plane could be completelydetermined if it's distances, say x and y, from two fixed lines drawn at right angles in theplane, were given. This is known as the Cartesian coordination system. The Cartesian orxy-plane consists of two perpendicular axes that cross at a point called the origin.Positions are determined by their placement away from the origin."Cartesian three-space, also called xyz-space, has a third axis, oriented at right anglesto the xy-plane. This axis, usually called to z axis, passes through the origin of the xy-plane. Positions are determined according to the east/west (x), north/south (y) andup/down (z) displacements from the origin." (Whatis 1)Prior to the use of Cartesian coordinates, there was no universal system used forplotting points on a plane or in space. The ability to plot a point in space between two orthree distances was a difficult and inaccurate...

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