Pascal 1623 - 1662
Site maintained by Ireland's Trinity College features a biography of the famous French mathematician.
From `A Short Account of the History of Mathematics' (4th edition,
1908) by W. W. Rouse Ball.
Among the contemporaries of Descartes none displayed greater natural
genius than Pascal, but his mathematical reputation rests more on what
he might have done than on what he actually effected, as during a
considerable part of his life he deemed it his duty to devote his whole
time to religious exercises.
Blaise Pascal was born at Clermont on June 19, 1623, and
died at Paris on Aug. 19, 1662. His father, a local judge at Clermont,
and himself of some scientific reputation, moved to Paris in 1631,
partly to prosecute his own scientific studies, partly to carry on the
education of his only son, who had already displayed exceptional
ability. Pascal was kept at home in order to ensure his not being
overworked, and with the same object it was directed that his education
should be at first confined to the study of languages, and should not
include any mathematics. This naturally excited the boy's curiosity, and
one day, being then twelve years old, he asked in what geometry
consisted. His tutor replied that it was the science of constructing
exact figures and of determining the proportions between their different
parts. Pascal, stimulated no doubt by the injunction against reading it,
gave up his play-time to this new study, and in a few weeks had
discovered for himself many properties of figures, and in particular the
proposition that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two
right angles. I have read somewhere, but I cannot lay my hand on the
authority, that his proof merely consisted in turning the angular points
of a triangular piece of paper over so as to meet in the centre of the
inscribed circle: a similar demonstration can be got by turning the
angular points over so as to meet at the foot of the perpendicular drawn
from the biggest angle to the opposite side. His father, struck by this
display of ability, gave him a copy of Euclid's Elements, a
book which Pascal read with avidity and soon mastered.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia
Born at Clermont-Ferrand, 19 June 1623; died in Paris, 19 August
1662. He was the son of Etienne Pascal, advocate at the court of Aids of
Clermont, and of Antoinette Bégon. His father, a man of fortune, went
with his children (1631) to live in Paris. He taught his son grammar,
Latin, Spanish, and mathematics, all according to an original method. In
his twelfth year Blaise composed a treatise on the communication of
sounds; at sixteen another treatise, on conic sections. In 1639 he went
to Rouen with his father, who had been appointed intendant of Normandy,
and, to assist his father in his calculations, he invented the
arithmetical machine. He repeated Torricelli's vacuum experiments and
demonstrated, against Père Noël, the weight of air (cf. Mathiew,
"Revue de Paris", 1906; Abel Lefranc "Revue Bleue",
1906; Strowski, "Pascal", Paris, 1908). He published works on
the arithmetical triangle, on wagers and the theory of probabilities,
and on the roulette or cycloid.
This site is from Great
Voyages in the History of Philosophy.
Pascal was a child prodigy, who was educated by his father. He was a
mathematician of the first order. At 16 he wrote the Essai pour les
coniques which was published in 1640. In 1642 he invented a
calculating machine to help his father, who served as Royal Tax
Commissioner at Rouen. Pascal is often credited with the discovery of
the mathematical theory of probability, and he also made serious
contributions to number theory and geometry.
This site includes a timeline.
From the Mac
Tutor History of Mathematics Archive.
Blaise Pascal was the third of Etienne
Pascal's children and his only son. Blaise's mother died when he was
only three years old. In 1632 the Pascal family, Etienne and his four
children, left Clermont and settled in Paris. Blaise Pascal's father had
unorthodox educational views and decided to teach his son himself. Etienne
Pascal decided that Blaise was not to study mathematics before the
age of 15 and all mathematics texts were removed from their house.
Blaise however, his curiosity raised by this, started to work on
geometry himself at the age of 12. He discovered that the sum of the
angles of a triangle are two right angles and, when his father found
out, he relented and allowed Blaise a copy of Euclid.
From the History Guide.
The French mathematician, theologian, physicist and man-of-letters,
Blaise Pascal, was born June 19 at Clermont-Ferrand, the son of the
local president of the court of exchequer. Pascal's mother died in 1630
and the family moved to Paris, where his father, a prominent
mathematician, personally undertook his children's education. Unlike the
famous education of John Stuart Mill, the young Pascal was not allowed
to begin a subject until his father thought he could easily master it.
Consequently it was discovered that the eleven year old boy had worked
out for himself in secret the first twenty-three propositions of Euclid,
calling straight lines "bars" and circles "rounds."
By Katharena Eiermann
17th French thinker, mathematician, scientist, and author of the
Pensees. Online texts, together with biography and related links.
Online Pascal Texts
From the Access Indiana Teaching
and Learning Center.
From the Stanford Encyclopedia of
"Pascal's Wager" is the name given to an argument due to
Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in
God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées,
Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of
which might be called a `wager'---it is only the final of these that is
traditionally referred to as "Pascal's Wager". We find in it
the extraordinary confluence of several strands in intellectual thought:
the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory,
used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism
(the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the
concept of infinity...