Ren© Descartes was, professionally, a mercenary, but his brilliant mind made him famous in the fields of mathematics and philosophy. He was born on March 31, 1596, in the French town of Indre-et-Loire, where he spent much of his life, until his death on February 11, 1650, in Stockholm, Sweden. He made several very important discoveries throughout his life including; his analytical geometry, his introduction of skepticism as an essential part of the scientific method, and his mathematics on how he could find tangents to curves.
Ren© Descartes’ analytical geometry was an incredible, incomprehensible breakthrough, connecting the previously separate fields of algebra and geometry. He was the first one who was able to plot the abstract concept of algebra on a geometric field. This led to the advancement of Newton and Leibniz independently creating calculus, based off of Ren© Descartes’ analytical geometry. Today, it’s used heavily in aviation, rocketry, space science, and spaceflight.
Descartes also showed how he could find tangents to curves. This process is a vital part of differential calculus. He was not so original with this idea however, because his mathematical competitor, Fermat, was also able to find tangents to curves. Fermat’s methods were simpler than Descartes’ and so he is credited more so than Descartes. Both Descartes’ and Fermat’s mathematics helped to guide Newton and Leibniz as they developed calculus which is crucial to understanding the behaviour of moving objects and is used by engineers all over the world.
He was also the first to introduce skepticism as an essential part of the scientific method. Descartes is famous in the field of philosophy for saying “I think therefore I am” as he thought about the world around him he realized that nothing he knows is certain. He tossed all of his preconceived notions and beliefs aside and he ended up with nothing, the only thing that he could reason was true, with absolute certainty, was the reality of his own existence. He was a man engulfed in the shroud of skepticism. It’s no mystery why he needed to introduce skepticism as an essential part of the scientific method. The scientific method would be imperfect if it strived to relieve all doubts without also doubting itself. Now, the scientific method is still our go-to method for researching a hypothesis, but thanks to Descartes we have the sensibility to know that multiple studies have to be done with conclusive results or nothing can be known with certainty.
Ren© Descartes lived a life worth revering, his contributions to the world are etched into the foundation of modern society. The advancement of planes, trains, and automobiles would’ve come much later if it weren’t for this astonishing mind.
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