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Mathematical Treasures – The Geometry of Descartes in Latin

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

French philosopher and mathematician Réne Descartes (1596–1650) originally published his La Géométrie in 1637. This book established foundations for the development of analytic geometry. The Dutch mathematician Frans van Schooten rendered Descartes’s rather dense French into a more accessible Latin in 1649, with a better-known edition, featuring appendices by van Schooten's students Huygens, Hudde, van Heuraet, and Witt, appearing in 1659. This is the title page of the 1683 edition of Geometria à Renato Des Cartes.

A portrait of Descartes serves as the frontispiece.

On page 171, the hyperbola is the topic of discussion.

These images from its George Arthur Plimpton Collection are presented through the courtesy of the Columbia University Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasures – The Geometry of Descartes in Latin," Convergence (November 2019)

Mathematical Treasures from the Smith and Plimpton Collections at Columbia University