René Descartes

(3156 words)
  • Patricia Ann Easton (Claremont Graduate University )

Rene Descartes is among the most significant mathematicians and philosophers in the European tradition. In mathematics, he founded analytic geometry by displaying how geometrical figures could be described by algebraic formulae; he did much to establish infinitesimal and differential calculus and clear the path for the mathematics and physics of Leibniz and Newton. He discovered the law of refraction and the anaclasic curve in optics; he formulated a plenist and mechanistic theory of matter in physics, a conception that was translatable into mathematical terms. His treatment of the body as a machine—in humans and animals alike—paved the way for mechanistic approaches in physiology and medicine. His reflections on scientific method …

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Easton, Patricia Ann. "René Descartes". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 October 2009
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]