Blaise PascalBlaise Pascal was born in Clermont France on June 19, 1623, and died in Paris onAug.
19, 1662. His father, a local judge at Clermont, and also a man with ascientific reputation, moved the family to Paris in 1631, partly to presue hisown scientific studies, partly to carry on the education of his only son, whohad already displayed exceptional ability. Blaise was kept at home in order toensure his not being overworked, and it was directed that his education shouldbe at first confined to the study of languages, and should not include anymathematics. Young Pascal was very curious, one day at the age of twelve whilestudying with his tutor, he asked about the study of geometry. After this hebegan to give up his play time to persue the study of geometry. After only a fewweeks he had mastered many properties of figures, in particular the propositionthat the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. Hisfather noticed his sons ability in mathematics and gave him a copy of Euclids’sElements, a book which Pascal read and soon mastered.
At the young age offourteen he was admitted to the weekly meetings of Roberval, Mersenne, Mydorge,and other French geometricians. At the age of sixteen he wrote an essay on conicsections; and in 1641 at the age of 18 he construced the first arithmeticalmachine, an instrument with metal dials on the front on which the numbers wereentered. Once the entries had been completed the answer would be displayed insmall windows on the top of the device. This device was improved eight yearslater. His correspondence with Fermat about this time shows that he was thenthurning his attention to analytical geometry and physics. At this time herepeated Torricelli’s experiments, by which the pressure of the atmosphere couldbe estimated as a weight, and he confirmed his theory of the cause ofbarometrical variations by obtaining at the same instant readings at differentaltitudes on the hill of Puy-de-Dme. A strange thing about Pascal was that in1650 he stoped all he reasearched and his favorite studies to being the study ofreligion, or as he sais in his Pensees, “contemplate the greatness and themisery of man.
” Also about this time he encouraged the younger of his twosisters to enther the Port Royal society. In 1653 after the death of his fatherhe returned to his old studies again, and made several experiments on thepressure exerted by gases and liquids; it wasalso about this period that heinvented the arithmetical triangle, and together with Fermat created thecalculus of probabilities. At this time he was thinking about getting marriedbut an accident caused him to return to his religious life.While he was drivinga four horse carrige the two lead horses ran off the bridge. The only thing thatsaved him was the traces breaking. Always somewhat of a mystic, he consideredthis a special summons to abandon the world of science and return to his studiesof religion.
He wrote an account of the accident on a small piece of paper,which for the rest of his life he wore next to his heart, to remind him of hiscovenant. Shortly after the accident he moved to Port Royal, where he continuedto live until his death in 1662. Besides the arithmetical machine and PascalsTheorem, Pascal also made the Arithmetical Triangle in 1653 and his work on thetheory of probabilities in 1654.