HE CAME from a good Catholic family in France; moreover, from the Jesuits he received a good education.
However, the brilliant mathematician-philosopher, Rene Descartes, shocked many of his family, friends and teachers when he “sowed his wild oats.”
First, against all expectations Descartes, discharged from the army and diplomatic corps, “kept house” with a Dutch girl from Amsterdam. A daughter, their love-child, was often presented as his “niece.”
Secondly, following the example of the Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei, he sharply criticized the Church. Only threats of excommunication and putting his writings in the Index of Forbidden Books kept him quite.
Thirdly, people gossiped saying “Something’s fishy is going on in Denmark, er, Sweden,” as spicy but ugly rumors went around Stockholm. On the pretext of teaching philosophy to the Queen of Sweden, Descartes went to her chambers even before the break of dawn. When he on February 11, 1651, in Stockholm, a city dreaded for its bitter winters, Descartes’ mortal remains were laid to rest in that city. But like the wandering lifestyle he had led, his body was later transferred to the Church of St. Etienne du Mont in France. Finally, his relatives and friends arranged for his final resting place in the Abbey of Saint-Germaine-des-Pres in Paris.
His being finally laid to rest in a Catholic church was a sign that Holy Mother Church welcomed back a problematic son, the man who revolutionized the world of philosophy and science with his famous dictum, “I think, therefore, I am.” (Cogito, ergo sum.)