Blaise Pascal




Born on June 19, 1623 in Clarmont, France, Balise Pascal was the son of a local judge, Etienne Pascal.  the elder Pascal had achieved some distinction in science.  In 1632 Pascal, together with his father and three sisters moved to Paris.  During that time Etienne intended to educated his son at home.  The curriculum was to exclude mathematics until the age of 15.  However, at the age of twelve Blaise earned the right to read Euclid after discovering several geometric theorems on his own, including the theorem that the sum of the angles of a triangle are two right angles.  The younger Pascal pursued his studies in mathematics and eventually published an article on conic sections in 1640.  From 1642-45 Blaise Pascal worked on a calculator, later called the Pascaline, to aid his father in collecting taxes.  Pascal's design is very much like the calculators developed in the 1940s.  

From 1647-1654 Pascal generated a great number of scientific and mathematical contributions.  He wrote New Experiments Concerning Vacuums based upon experiments with a barometer at various altitudes.  He created a system of hydrostatics in his Treatise on the Equilibrium of Liquids (1653).  He also wrote The Generation of Conic Sections and the Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle.  In the summer of 1654 in a series of letters between himself and Pierre de Fermat, Pascal and Fermat outlined what is now the contemporary theory of probability.  Shortly after, in the fall of 1654, Pascal had a carriage accident which had a profound psychological effect upon him.  Always religious, Pascal now devoted himself much more to religion.  In 1656-58 Pascal worked on his Pensées, a religious work in which he famously claims to have proven that belief in god is rational using what has come to be know as "Pascal's Wager."  In 1658 Pascal was involved in a series of mathematical challenges.  these would be has last works in mathematics.  He devoted the rest of his life to giving to the poor and traveling from town to town attending religious services.  He died in Paris on August 19, 1662 as a result of a brain tumor which likely metasticized from a stomach tumor.


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