René Descartes on his desk. Source: Wikimedia

I would like to take this opportunity accentuate what I consider one of the most important milestone / inventions in mathematics as a whole and the man that made this possible. Rene Descartes (1596–1650) is a French philosopher, mathematician and scientist responsible for the unification of algebra with Geometry , in the appendix of the Discourse on the Method, which giving rise to the emergence of analytic or Cartesian geometry (from Cartesius, the name Descartes in Latin). He was able to for the first time make a connection with algebra and geometry at a time when they were seen as different subjects. He was able to represent a point on the cartesian plane as a pair of numbers (x,y) a coordinate system . This allowed him to describe lines drawn on the plane by equations with two variables. This in fact was a beautiful feat that can’t be overstated, and it is technically responsible for the advancement in the world of technology as we see it today, it’s used in variety of applications in countless disciplines, hence we live in Descartes’ paradise.

The coordinate plane.

How he made this discovery is quite a fascinating and inspiring story. Descartes was ill for a long portion of his life which restricted him to his bed longer in the bed. Like many days, he laid in bed thinking of maths when he spotted a fly, he watched as the fly landed at different places on his bedroom ceiling. His bedroom ceiling had square tiles, he wonder how he could describe the exact location of the fly using numbers. After much thought Descartes developed a hypothesis on how to accurately note which spot the fly landed. He decided that he would need to think of the square tiles as a grid, one of the corners of the ceiling would be the reference point where the x and y axis meet, while one wall be the x axis and the other the y axis.

By counting the number of tiles to the fly from both x and y coordinates he was able to come up with two numbers (a,b) that described the point where fly was located. This invention of the coordinate plane created a link between algebra and geometry that would change math forever. All this was done without getting out of bed (don’t get any ideas….as a matter of fact, I hope you do, as long as it makes the world a better place).

In addition to Descartes’ invention of the coordinate system, some of his other lasting contributions to Mathematics include, System of Variables, using x,y,z, to represent unknown quantities and a,b,c, for known constants or parameters. The exponent notation, using superscript to denote power.

As an aspiring Data Scientist, the application of the coordinate system is prevalent in almost every single thing we do.From our exploratory data analysis and visualization of our data on graphs to building of models using linear algebra , down to our computers we use to make this all possible.

Asides from his Mathematical contributions, Descartes is regarded as one of the founders of modern Philosophy. He used his passion for math as a tool to bring more certainty and credibility to Philosophy which also was his passion. His melding of Mathematics and Philosophy is evident in these quotes he has left behind:

  • Rene Descartes

These are only a few quotes from Descartes through his academic explorations. As a Data Scientist, these quotes emphatically parallels my day to day learning, problem solving and growth. This is not exclusive to any particular field of study, and can serve as a guide/reminders in our lives

The of Story Rene Descartes is one of great intellectual achievement in different fields of study. More specifically, the Story of his invention of the coordinate system by unification of geometry and algebra is a reminder that no field of study within logic, science and truth stands alone. But instead if one is able to accurately combine the different Ideas from different fields can solve even greater problems.

Now we are done with the formalities, while doing my research on the idea to write a piece on the French Philosopher, I came a across this hilarious video below, which was the inspiration for my title, Descartes’ Paradise , and also in all honesty, I believe did a better job than what I attempted to do while making a decent rap song, with the melody of an all time favorite rap song, Gangster Paradise, by Coolio.

Descartes paradise Algebra Rap

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