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René Descartes Biography.com Philosopher, Academic, Mathematician, Scientist(1596–1650) 864 SHARES QUICK FACTS NAME René Descartes OCCUPATION Philosopher , Academic , Mathematician , Scientist BIRTH DATE March 31 , 1596 DEATH DATE February 11 , 1650 EDUCATION Jesuit College of Henri IV , University of Poitiers PLACE OF BIRTH La Haye, Touraine , France PLACE OF DEATH Stockholm , Sweden CITE THIS PAGE
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Philosopher and mathematician René Descartes is regarded as the father of modern philosophy for defining a starting point for existence, “I think; therefore I am.” IN THESE GROUPS FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO DIED IN 1650 FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO SERVED IN THE MILITARY FAMOUS PEOPLE NAMED RENÉ FAMOUS PEOPLE IN EDUCATION Show All Groups QUOTES “I think; therefore I am." ("Cogito ergo sum.")” —René Descartes Synopsis René Descartes was born on March 31, 1596, in La Haye en Touraine, France. He was extensively educated, first at a Jesuit college at age 8, then earning a law degree at 22, but an influential teacher set him on a course to apply mathematics and logic to understanding the natural world. This approach incorporated the contemplation of the nature of existence and of knowledge itself, hence his most famous observation, “I think; therefore I am.” Early Life Philosopher René Descartes was born on March 31, 1596, in La Haye en Touraine, a small town in central France, which has since been renamed after him to honor its most famous son. He was the youngest of three children, and his mother, Jeanne Brochard, died within his first year of life. His father, Joachim, a council member in the provincial parliament, sent the children to live with their maternal grandmother, where they remained even after he remarried a few years later. But he was very concerned with good education and sent René, at age 8, to boarding school at the Jesuit college of Henri IV in La Flèche, several miles to the north, for seven years. Descartes was a good student, although it is thought that he might have been sickly, since he didn’t have to abide by the school’s rigorous schedule and was instead allowed to rest in bed until midmorning. The subjects he studied, such as rhetoric and logic and the “mathematical arts,” which included music and astronomy, as well as metaphysics, natural philosophy and ethics, equipped him well for his future as a philosopher. So did spending the next four years earning a baccalaureate in law at the University of Poitiers. Some scholars speculate that he may have had a nervous breakdown during this time.
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Descartes later added theology and medicine to his studies. But he eschewed all this, “resolving to seek no knowledge other than that of which could be found in myself or else in the great book of the world,” he wrote much later in Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences , published in 1637.
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