"I Think, Therefore I Am": Rene Descartes
Welcome to the first in a series of brief articles describing the lives
of those scientists and artists whose names you will find on the street
signs of Myville. This week's article is about Rene Descartes, French
mathematician and philosopher.
by Lois Lee
Rene Descartes (1596-1650), greatest mathematician of his time, led the way for mathematics
to be applied to science. Until the early 17th Century, the two fields were considered to be almost entirely separate, the discoveries of the one not affecting those of the other.
Although he is perhaps best known for declaring, "I think, therefore I am,"
this statement is really only a part of an entirely new philosophy of reasoning developed by Descartes. His ideas became the foundation of what
would eventually become the modern scientific method. His systematic
skepticism, or "methodical doubt," as he called it, enabled him to reject all
that was uncertain or doubtful in the world of learning, and emphasized the
reasonableness of a theory rather than its history or popularity.
Descartes' most direct effect on people in the 20th century can be seen
in algebra and geometry classrooms across the globe: the Descartes plane,
otherwise known as the x-y coordinate system, is a fundamental part of
learning some of the most basic of mathematical concepts because of the
system's relative simplicity.
Descartes Street, running just adjacent to City Hall