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Descartes' Invention of Analytic Geometry

It is impossible not to feel stirred at the thought of the emotions of men at certain historic moments of adventure and discovery--Columbus when he first saw the Western shore, Pizarro when he stared at the Pacific Ocean, Franklin when the electric spark came from the string of his kite, Galileo when he first turned his telescope to the heavens. Such moments are also granted to students in the abstract regions of thought, and high among them must be placed the morning when Descartes lay in bed and invented the method of co-ordinate geometry.

--A.N. Whitehead, An Introduction to Mathematics, quoted in R.E. Moritz, On Mathematics, #1890.

Carl Lee
Thu Sep 11 09:07:24 EDT 1997