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René Descartes


French mathematician and founding father of modern philosophy. Born in La Haye, near Tours, Descartes was educated at the new
Jesuit college at La Flèche, before reading law at Poitiers. In 1618 he enlisted in the Dutch army of Maurice of Nassau, in order to have the leisure to think. His interest in methodology of a unified science is supposed to have been stimulated by a dream "in a stove-heated room" when he was serving at Ulm in 1619. In the subsequent ten years he travelled widely, returning to Holland in 1628. Little is known of his privat life, but the death of his illegitimate daughter Francine in 1640 is known to have been a devastating blow. In 1649 Descartes visited the court of Kristina of Sweden, where he contracted pneumonia, allegedly through being required to break his normal habit of late rising in order to give lessons at 5.00 a.m. His last words are supposed to have been "Ca, mon am, il faut partir" (so, my soul, it is time to part).


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