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Investigation of geometric objects using coordinate systems. Because René Descartes was the first to apply algebra to geometry, it is also known as Cartesian geometry. It springs from the idea that any point in two-dimensional space can be represented by two numbers and any point in three-dimensional space by three. Because lines, circles, spheres, and other figures can be thought of as collections of points in space that satisfy certain equations, they can be explored via equations and formulas rather than graphs. Most of analytic geometry deals with the conic sections. Because these are defined using the notion of fixed distance, each section can be represented by a general equation derived from the distance formula.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on analytic geometry, visit Britannica.com.