René Descartes

Kristina Beall, Ouachita Baptist University

This paper was submitted as part of the History of Mathematics Course (MATH 3083), taught by Dr. Stephen C. Hennagin.


René Descartes is a mathematician, philosopher, scientist, and Christian, who made a profound impact on the world of mathematics and science. Descartes is known as the founder of analytical geometry. He was born in France in 1596. Descartes was raised by his grandmother until he went to Jesuit college of Le Fléche. Le Fléche was where Descartes was first exposed to mathematics and philosophy. After university, Descartes met Isaac Beeckman in 1618, while serving in the military. Isaac Beeckman was the main motivator for Descartes’ pursuit in mathematics. Descartes studied under Beeckman briefly. While corresponding with Beeckman, Descartes revealed the foundations of analytical geometry through his discovery that algebraic equations can be solved using a proportional compass and geometric shapes. In 1637, his only mathematical publication, Geometry, was published. Geometry was one of Descartes most important works ever published. The ideas in Geometry fueled research and insight in physics and philosophy and even contributed to Descartes’ proofs of God’s existence. The details of Descartes’ strong belief in God as the reason for everything are explained in his work, Meditations. Descartes’ proof of the existence of God guided all of his work. It was through his attempt to prove the existence of God that Descartes discovered his mathematical contributions and made his contributions to the development of Cartesian mathematics. Without his strong faith, René Descartes would not have been able to impact the world of mathematics and science so profoundly.