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Euler's Gem by David S. Richeson

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CHAPTER 9

SCOOPED BY DESCARTES?

I hope that posterity will judge me kindly, not only as to the things which I have explained, but also to those which I have intentionally omitted so as to leave to others the pleasure of discovery.—René Descartes1

In 1860, over a century after Euler presented his proof of the polyhedron formula, evidence surfaced that René Descartes, the famous philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, had known of this remarkable relationship in 1630, more than one hundred years before Euler. The evidence was found in a long-lost manuscript. The story is fascinating, as is the debate over whose name should accompany the polyhedron formula.

Descartes was born to a noble, if not wealthy, family in 1596 in La Haye, France, just ...

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