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Facts about Rene Descartes for Kids

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his adult 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.

  • 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 — 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.
  • In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, a treatise on the Early Modern version of what are now commonly called emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic “as if no one had written on these matters before”.
  • On the night of 10–11 November 1619, while stationed in Neuburg an der Donau, Germany, Descartes experienced a series of three powerful dreams or visions that he later claimed profoundly influenced his life.
  • It was during a stay in Paris that he composed his first essay on method: Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii.
  • In Amsterdam, he had a relationship with a servant girl, Helena Jans van der Strom, with whom he had a daughter, Francine, who was born in 1635 in Deventer, at which time Descartes taught at the Utrecht University.
  • In 1641 he published a metaphysics work, Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, written in Latin and thus addressed to the learned.
  • It was followed, in 1644, by Principia Philosophiæ, a kind of synthesis of the Meditations and the Discourse.
  • In 1643, Cartesian philosophy was condemned at the University of Utrecht, and Descartes began his long correspondence with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, devoted mainly to moral and psychological subjects.
  • A French translation of Principia Philosophiæ, prepared by Abbot Claude Picot, was published in 1647.
  • Contemporary Blaise Pascal said that “I cannot forgive Descartes; in all his philosophy, Descartes did his best to dispense with God.
  • In an anthropocentric revolution, Man is now raised to the level of a subject, an agent, an emancipated being equipped with autonomous reason.
  • He also “pioneered the standard notation” that uses superscripts to show the powers or exponents, for example the 4 used in x to indicate squaring of squaring.