Born: March 31, 1596 in France
Died: February 11, 1650 in Sweden
This one thing [analytic geometry] is of the highest order of excellence, marked by the sensuous simplicity of the half dozen or so greatest contributions of all time to mathematics. Descartes remade geometry and made modern geometry possible.
(E. T. Bell)
Rene Descartes was the third child of a well off noble family. His mother died a few days after his birth, and he was a frail child. Because of this poor health, his father mostly let René do as he wished, but at the age of 8 he was sent to a Jesuit "college" for formal schooling in the classics. The rector of the school was sensitive to the boy's health and allowed Descartes to stay in bed until he felt ready to attend class. Descartes used these quiet mornings to think, and, later in life, he said that they were the real source of his philosophy and mathematics.
By 18 Descartes was quite healthy, and he left school to begi...