On this day…
31st March, 1596 – René Descartes born
René Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician and writer who spent most of his life in the Dutch Republic.
He has been dubbed the father of modern philosophy, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes’ influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system — allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) — was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the scientific revolution and has been described as an example of genius.
His best known philosophical statement is “Cogito ergo sum” (Je pense, donc je suis).
“I think, therefore I am”.