#
François Vieta

François Vieta lived during the 16th century in France. He was a lawyer
and also
decyphered encoded messages for the kings of France (Henry III and IV).

Vieta lived in a time of violent religious wars between Catholics and
Protestants called Huguenots. Even though Vieta was a Catholic,
he also worked as a lawyer for a Protestant family.

Mathematics was only a hobby
of his, but nevertheless Vieta was of great importance and influence. He is sometimes
called the father of algebra because he introduced literal coefficient
for variables and he systematically used symbols, for example the +
and - signs which until then
where described in words.

Thanks to the introduction of literal coefficients for variables and
unknowns he was able to solve equations in
a general, non-numeric way. This was a very important step in the development
of math. For example, for the equation
ax² + bx + c = 0
you can find a general solution without having to go through it again and
again with different numbers. (The drawback of such a genial abstraction
is that you obtain mechanized solutions which might make you stop thinking
about what you really are dealing with.)