Orthopedics

Blue Notes 

Putting Descartes Before "Dehorse"

Charles Sorbie, MB, ChB, FRCS(E), FRCS(C)

Abstract

Our connection with bones may not amount to a passion to possess Descartes’ bones as it had for many of his followers. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) would have given the relationship of “thought” to the “existence” of bones—much thought!

Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine, a small village in the Loire Valley now called Descartes. He was educated in a Jesuit college and studied law at the University of Poitiers. As a youth, he traveled Europe to mix with as many people as possible in all walks of life so that he could formulate his own philosophy of life. He spent the most intellectually profitable part of his life, from age 30 to 50 in several of Holland’s major cities revolutionizing mathematics and philosophy. He laid the basis for Newton’s calculus, and his writing on analytical geometry guides mathematicians, engineers, and architects today. His contribution to the field of optics, Descartes Law of Refraction, established, among other things, the angular radius of a rainbow, 42°. He showed that any 3 points can be described on the circumference of a circle with a centre and radii. He invented the notation that uses superscripts (eg, X2); his analytical geometry was algebraic.

As a philosopher, he proposed a notion of thought as an entity in itself, an entity that existed. He summed it up with his famous phrase: “Cogito ergo sum” (ie, I think, therefore I am). Like others, he sought to discover the relationship of the mind to the body, which was rationalized and recorded in his numerous philosophical treatises. They are primers in all courses on philosophy to this day.

He was a teacher of the science-minded Queen Christina of Sweden and died of pneumonia in Stockholm on February 11, 1650. His death was believed to be related to the Queen’s insistence on his presence for early morning studies, when he wanted to stay working in bed until noon.

His bones then began a fascinating journey, but more on that later...

DOI: 10.3928/01477447-20090728-03

Dr. Charles Sorbie is Professor of Surgery at Queen’s University and a member of the Attending Staff at the General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals in Kingston, Ontario.

A former chairman of the Department of Surgery at Queen’s University, Dr. Sorbie has been President of the Canadian Orthopaedic Research Society, the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, and the Societé Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie (SICOT).…

Our connection with bones may not amount to a passion to possess Descartes’ bones as it had for many of his followers. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) would have given the relationship of “thought” to the “existence” of bones—much thought!

Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine, a small village in the Loire Valley now called Descartes. He was educated in a Jesuit college and studied law at the University of Poitiers. As a youth, he traveled Europe to mix with as many people as possible in all walks of life so that he could formulate his own philosophy of life. He spent the most intellectually profitable part of his life, from age 30 to 50 in several of Holland’s major cities revolutionizing mathematics and philosophy. He laid the basis for Newton’s calculus, and his writing on analytical geometry guides mathematicians, engineers, and architects today. His contribution to the field of optics, Descartes Law of Refraction, established, among other things, the angular radius of a rainbow, 42°. He showed that any 3 points can be described on the circumference of a circle with a centre and radii. He invented the notation that uses superscripts (eg, X2); his analytical geometry was algebraic.

As a philosopher, he proposed a notion of thought as an entity in itself, an entity that existed. He summed it up with his famous phrase: “Cogito ergo sum” (ie, I think, therefore I am). Like others, he sought to discover the relationship of the mind to the body, which was rationalized and recorded in his numerous philosophical treatises. They are primers in all courses on philosophy to this day.

He was a teacher of the science-minded Queen Christina of Sweden and died of pneumonia in Stockholm on February 11, 1650. His death was believed to be related to the Queen’s insistence on his presence for early morning studies, when he wanted to stay working in bed until noon.

His bones then began a fascinating journey, but more on that later...

DOI: 10.3928/01477447-20090728-03

Dr. Charles SorbieBlue Notes Editor:
Charles Sorbie, MB, ChB, FRCS(E), FRCS(C)

Dr. Charles Sorbie is Professor of Surgery at Queen’s University and a member of the Attending Staff at the General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals in Kingston, Ontario.

A former chairman of the Department of Surgery at Queen’s University, Dr. Sorbie has been President of the Canadian Orthopaedic Research Society, the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, and the Societé Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie (SICOT).


10.3928/01477447-20090728-03

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