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# Descartes's Secret Notebook: A True Tale of Mathematics, Mysticism, and the Quest to Understand the Universe

René Descartes (1596–1650) is one of the towering and central figures in Western philosophy and mathematics. His apothegm “ Cogito, ergo sum ” marked the birth of the mind-body problem, while his creation of so-called Cartesian coordinates have made our physical and intellectual conquest of physical space possible. But Descartes had a mysterious and mystical side, as well.
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Paperback, 288 pages

Published
October 10th 2006
by Broadway Books
(first published 2005)

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## Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)

By Amir D. Aczel

Reviewed by Tom Carrico

This fascinating and highly readable book is part biography, part mystery and part treatise on philosophy and mathematics. Rene Descartes lived from 1596 to 1650. His life was one of adventure and discovery. His philosophy was hotly debated at the time and his discoveries in mathematics were and are regarded as genius. This author tries to add another layer to the legend by examining a purported “secret notebook”, long lost but cop ...more

McDonalds wifi ate my review then asked if I wanted fries with my order. No thanks.

This is the third Aczel book I have read (after the okay The Riddle of the C ...more

Further on in the book he states that when Descartes was visiting the Fr ...more

Dec 10, 2016
Whoof
added it

Found it quite amusing and entertaining, but some of the mathematical exposition (and there isn't too much of it) seems misleading.

I think most of what I learned from reading this (outside of interesting biographical details of Descartes) needs to be double-checked for veracity. Aczel essentially asserts that Descartes' secret notebook contained Euler's formula (F+V -E = 2) but poking around some other sources reveals that it isn't so simple, although Descartes had derived a related and near eq ...more

I think most of what I learned from reading this (outside of interesting biographical details of Descartes) needs to be double-checked for veracity. Aczel essentially asserts that Descartes' secret notebook contained Euler's formula (F+V -E = 2) but poking around some other sources reveals that it isn't so simple, although Descartes had derived a related and near eq ...more

Descartes married geometry and algebra and thereby laid ...more

The book was mostly a biography of Descartes. Some of it was familiar to me, from learning about Descartes in French class and reading Discourse on the Method that J inspired me to study. It was enjoyable reading about the Rosicrucians, taking me back to my years as an astrologer. Pythagoras, Hermes Trismegistus, Tycho Brahe, Max Hei ...more

I knew of Descarte as a philosopher and was aware of his work in mathematics, but hadn't quite realized how brilliant ...more

*Descartes’ Secret Notebook*is “a true tale of mathematics, mysticism, and the quest to understand the universe.” The book is good, but I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped for pages and pages of Descartes’ secret notebook, when in fact there are only a couple of them. Also, the big huge secret isn’t revealed until the last few pages of the book.

Aczel is very knowledgeable, and certainly makes this book accessible to all readers, not just ones who grew up in mathematical families like me where D ...more

Jun 19, 2007
Em
rated it
it was ok
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
math/history

Shelves:
abandoned

I just started it today when I was waiting in the library, not expecting to find it too interesting...but it's a surprisingly quick read. Before I knew it, I was like halfway through. Really compelling story...Descartes is an enigmatic genius. Anyone who's into math or even logic or like the history surrounding the man, czech it. It's pretty sweet, makes you appreciate cartesians and calculus just a little bit more, and who couldn't use a little more appreciation for those, yeah?

The Secret Notebook is a very good read that lets you think thoroughly about the world of Mathematics, and the Earth in general. It also talks about principles and other psychology-related critical thinking.

Jan 16, 2008
Ariel Cruz
rated it
it was ok

Recommended to Ariel by:
anyone interested in seeing Descartes nude.

Shelves:
journalism

While nicely written (albeit alittle too accessibly) it turns out that Decartes "mysticism" doesn't go too much farther than the Pythagorean faith in the ultimate importance of math alongside the then fashionable preoccupation of european gentlemen with alchemy. As a quick bio of the man it's a nice little snack but doesn't live up to its premise.

Aug 05, 2011
Nick Mather
added it

More a biography of Descartes than anything else. The material regarding mysticism fills up about ten pages, tops. The writing was ok, but not great. A few interesting tidbits about Descartes' life. Its an easy read, but I couldn't help feeling like it was a really lengthy undergraduate research paper.

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