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Mathematical Treasure: Works of a Teacher of Descartes

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Jean François (1582–1668) was a Jesuit scholar and professor of philosophy and mathematics at the Jesuit college at La Flèche in northeastern France. Rene Descartes was one of his pupils. François was mainly known for his work in geography and cartography, but he did also publish several works on mathematics. In his L’Arithmétique et la Géométrie Pratique (1657), he stressed the applied nature of mathematics.

Title page of L’Arithmétique et la Géométrie Pratique by Jean François, 1657

In the opening section of his book, François discussed the properties of varied geometric figures.

First page of Chapter 1 of L’Arithmétique et la Géométrie Pratique by Jean François, 1657

Second page of Chapter 1 of L’Arithmétique et la Géométrie Pratique by Jean François, 1657

Later in the text, he discussed surveying and the layout of specific plots: gardens, parks, etc.

Page 44 of L’Arithmétique et la Géométrie Pratique by Jean François, 1657

Page 49 of L’Arithmétique et la Géométrie Pratique by Jean François, 1657

In a more philosophical vein, François also authored a book on quantity, Traité de la Quantitée (1655).

Title page of Traité de la Quantitée by Jean François, 1655

An opening illustration of a celestial sphere:

Drawing of celestial sphere from Traité de la Quantitée by Jean François, 1655

The table of contents provides an outline of the topics considered:

First page of table of contents from Traité de la Quantitée by Jean François, 1655

Second page of table of contents from Traité de la Quantitée by Jean François, 1655

Third page of table of contents from Traité de la Quantitée by Jean François, 1655

The full works can be viewed courtesy of the University of Bordeaux, Library of Science and Technology, through BabordNum.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Works of a Teacher of Descartes," Convergence (January 2020)

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