"Cogito Ergo Sum" ("I think, therefore I am.")
René Descartes was born on March 31st, 1596
in the town of La Haye in the south of
France, the son of Joachim Descartes, a
Councilor in Parliament and and intellectual who
made certain to provide a good learning environment for his son.
In 1606, at the age of 8, René attended the Jesuit college of
Henri IV in La Flèche, where he
studied literature, grammar, science, and mathematics. In 1614, he
left La Flèche to study civil and
cannon Law at Poitiers. In 1616, he received his
baccalaureate and licentiate degrees in Law. Aside from his Law
degrees, Descartes also spent time studying philosophy, theology, and
After a short stay in the military, Descartes went on
to lead a quiet life, continuing his intellectual pursuits, writing
philosophical essays, and exploring the world of science and
mathematics. In 1637, he published "geometry", in which his
combination of algebra and geometry gave birth to analytical geometry,
better known as Cartesian geometry.
But the most important contribution Descartes made
were his philosophical writings; Descartes, who was convinced that
science and mathematics could be used to explain everything in nature,
was the first to describe the physical universe in terms of matter and
motion, seeing the universe a as giant mathematically designed engine.
Descartes wrote three important texts: Discourse on the
Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in the
Sciences, Meditations on First Philosophy, and Principles of
René Descartes had always been a frail individual, and he
would usually spend most of his mornings in bed, where he did most of
his thinking, fresh from dreams in which he often had his revelations.
In his latter years, Descartes had to relocate to Sweden to tutor Queen
Christina in philosophy. Unfortunately, the Queen was an early
riser who wanted her lessons at 5:00 o'clock in the morning. This
new schedule did not help Descartes fragile health, and he contracted
pneumonia, from which he died on February 11, 1650 at the age of 54.