Descartes' Secret Notebook
By Amir D. Aczel
Broadway Books 2005
Author Biography at Wikipedia
Descartes Biography at Wikipedia
I love stories about people searching for and finding unusual ephemera - things associated with famous people. The Book Nobody Read was one such book, and I have just finished another. This non-fiction book is about the search for Rene Descartes' (1596 - 1650) secret notebook. The notebook that very few men knew about because it was said to mention forbidden things. Teachings that were not of the Catholic church, but of the brotherhood of the Rosy Cross. It seems that Rene Descrates may have been a member of the Rosicrucians. But noone knows for sure.
Anyway, for those of you have have never heard of Descartes, he was a French Philosopher, scientist and mathematician during the 30 years war. He invented the Cartesian coordinates upon which our modern GPS system depends. He also invented analytical geometry. A method of combining equations and formulae of algebra with the figures and shapes of geometry.
"Not geometry." I hear my readers groaning. I know, I know, geometry is just so boring. This book is not about geometry. Its actually a very good biography of Rene Descartes, his life and education in France, his travels around Europe, his family and so on. He lived in Germany, Holland and was even requested to tutor Queen Christine of Sweden for a short time. Unfortunately that first freezing cold winter in Sweden, was also his last.
This is not a book for light reading. Indeed, even I took several weeks to complete it. It is only 242 pages long, has a number of good illustrations, including some mathematical illustrations. I really did enjoy it.