class family on March 31,1956 in the French village of La Haye en Touraine. The village is now called Descartes, Indre-et-Loire in his honor. Rene’s father was Joachim Descartes, a lawyer at Britanny’s Court of Justice. His mother was Jeanne Brochard, daughter of the Lieutenant General of Poitiers. During school Rene spent seven or eight years at La Fleche learning logic, theology, philosophy, Latin and Greek. In his final two years, he also learned mathematics and physics. The physics was that of Aristotle- almost entirely wrong.
On November,10 1619 Descartes was dozing in a warm, stove-heated room in the German town of Neuburg an der Donau. There he had a series of dreams that would ultimately change the way scientists work. He believed a spirit sent by God had had given him new ideas about the Scientific Method, Analytical Geometry, and Philosophy. 18 years later, in 1637 he published his ideas in Discussion of the Method, Geometry, Meteorology, and Optics. The first two of the these works contain his most significant contributions. In Discussion of the Method Descartes shared his framework for doing science.
Descartes made the revolutionary discovery that he could solve problems in geometry by converting them into problems in algebra. In geometry, Descartes showed how he could find tangents to curves. This process is a vital part of differential calculus. Descartes is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Here we are concerned with science rather than philosophy, so we will restrict ourselves to noting his most famous declaration “I think therefore I am.”
In 1649 Descartes was invited to Stockholm by Queen Christina of Sweden. She wanted him to set up a new academy of science. Rene Descartes died, aged 53, of pneumonia in Stockholm on February, 11 1650. He was buried at the Adolf Fredriks Church in Stockholm. In death, as in life, Descartes was mobile. 16 years after his first burial his remains were moved and buried in the Saint-Etienne-du-Mont church in Paris,France. In 1819 his remains minus skull and finger were moved to the Abbey of Saint-German-des-Pres in Paris, where he now rests. In 1663, despite his efforts to avoid such a fate – he regarded himself as a devout Catholic – a number of Descartes works joined Galileo’s on the index of books prohibited by the catholic church. Over 300 years later, in 1966, this index was finally discontinued.