Blaise Pascal – French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher

Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. He had many important contributions to mathematics and physics such as the construction of mechanical calculators, considerations on probability theory, the study of fluids, concepts of the pressure and vacuum, and the Pascal Triangle. After a divine experience in 1654, he devoted himself to meditating and writing philosophy. His many discoveries in the field of mathematics have made him one of the most important mathematicians in history (Broome). Blaise Pascal was born in Clermont, France in 1623.

He was one of five children and lost his mother at the age of three. Starting in 1631, his father, Etienne Pascal, devoted himself to the education of Blaise, who showed extraordinary intelligence. At age 16, Pascal produced a paper on conic sections, which is now called Pascal’s theorem. At age 18, Pascal created a mechanical calculator able to do addition and subtraction (Pascal). In 1653, Pascal wrote the Traite du Triangle Arithmetique, which was a theory described as a convenient tabular presentation for binomial coefficients.

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Today his theory is called the arithmetical triangle or Pascal triangle (Broome). Pascal did much research in science that included contributions to the study of fluids, pressures, and vacuums. He also invented the hydraulic press and syringe. In 1654, he worked with another mathematician, Fermat, on the mathematical theory of probabilities (Broome). In 1654, he was in a carriage accident and fifteen days later had an intense religious vision (Pascal). After the vision, Pascal began to attack the ideas of casuistry or complex reasoning to justify moral laxity.

He wrote many essays and letters against this idea and was hated for this. Louis XIV of France ordered that his papers be shredded and burnt. Pascal’s largest theological writing was the Pensees, which was a sustained and coherent examination of and defense of the Christian faith. However, the novel was left unfinished because of his death in Paris on August 19, 1662 (Broome). Blaise Pascal’s finding has provided much information to the mathematical, scientific, and religious communities.

His many mathematical discoveries which include Pascal’s Wager, Pascal’s triangle and Pascal’s theorem have all been considered some of the most important discoveries of all time. However, these were only a small fraction of the fast amounts of research and study Pascal did in the field of mathematics. Pascal’s studies and research have provided crucial information to mathematics and are what make Blaise Pascal one of the most important mathematicians in history.

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