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Blaise Pascal

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BC: The End.

FC: Blaise Pascal

1: A brief reflection on the life of mathematician, scientist, inventor, physicist and philosopher, Blaise Pascal. Author: Olivia T. Wilcox Ms. Kleber's 3rd Period World History Honors The reason for so much outcry against maxims that lay bare the human heart is that people are afraid of having their own lay bare. -Francois de La Rochefoucauld

2: Once upon a time in the far away land of Clermont-Ferrand, France, there was a wee boy born on the 19th day of June, in the year of Our Lord, 1623, by the name of Blaise Pascal. Blaise's mother, Antoinette Begon, died in 1631 when he was just three years old. Blaise had two sisters; Jacqueline, the younger, and Gilberte, the elder. Five years after his mother passed away, his father, Étienne Pascal, moved with his family to the famous city of Paris.

3: Étienne Pascal insisted on being the sole educator of his children. All his three children, Gilberte, Blaise, and Jacqueline, showed extreme intellectual potential. Blaise, particularly, showed great aptitude for math and science. At mere age of eleven, Blaise wrote a brief treatise on the sounds of vibrating bodies. Upon becoming aware the treatise, Blaise's father banned him from further pursuing mathematics until that age of fifteen so as not to interfere with his son's study of Latin and Greek.

4: In an act of defiance, Twelve year old Blaise went about proving that all the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or 180 degrees. From then on, Blaise was allowed to study Euclid, the "father of geometry", and silently look on at gatherings of some of the greatest mathematicians of the time, which were often held in Father Mersenne's monastic cell. Four years later, at the age of sixteen, Blaise created what is now known as Pascal's Theorem. Pascal's Theorem states: If an arbitrary hexagon is inscribed in any conic section and pairs of opposite sides are extended until they meet, the three intersecting points will lie on a straight line, the Pascal line of that configuration.

5: In 17th century France, government positions were often bought and sold. In 1631, the eldest Pascal sold his office as vice president of the Cour des Aides for 65,665 livres (french currency) and invested it in a government bond which would later be defaulted on. In 1639 Blaise's father took a job as a tax commissioner for the city of Rouen. To help his father with the calculations,Blaise, who was not yet nineteen, began working on a mechanical calculator to do addition and subtraction called the Pascaline.

6: After his invention of the Pascaline, Blaise turned his attention to Physics. He conducted experiments to prove that atmospheric pressure could be estimated as a weight. Today, the Pascal (Pa) is a unit of atmospheric pressure measurement that is named in honor of Blaise Pascal and his contribution to our knowledge of the atmosphere.

7: During the 1650s Blaise suddenly abandon all of his academic pursuits to study philosophy and theology. His father died in 1651. He said he desired to "contemplate the the greatness and the misery of man," in his Pensées. In 1646, Blaise and his younger sister Jacqueline became religious followers of Jansenism, a movement inside Catholicism. Pope Innocent X condemned Jansenism as a heresy of the Roman Catholic Church in 1655.

8: Since the age of eighteen, Pascal suffered from nervous system aliments. The constant pain he experienced from that point on caused him to become an irritable hypochondriac. It is said that he seldom smiled. He also never married, though he contemplated it for a time, he considered marriage, "the lowest of the conditions of life permitted to a Christian."

9: Michel de Montaigne was one of the most influential French renaissance writers. He is known to be of direct influence and inspiration to many great renaissance men, including Blaise Pascal and René Descartes. René Descartes was also one of Pascal's great influences, not to mention one of Pascal's most avid rivals. In 1647 when Pascal sufficiently proved that the a vacuum does exist in the atmosphere, Descartes quipped that Pascal "..has too much vacuum in his head."

10: Pascal came up with the theory of probability for a gambling friend. | Pascal was the first person to don a wrist-watch. He is said to have taken a pocket watch and simply tied it to his wrist.

11: In 1653 Pascal wrote his "Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle" and developed a way to express binomial coefficients in the form of what is now know as "Pascal's triangle." Algebra frequently utilizes Pascal's Triangle.

12: A Renaissance man may refer to a person who excelled in multiple fields of study during the time of the renaissance in Europe. The renaissance was a rebirth of learning, and it is marked by humanists who reveled in human potential and achievements. Renaissance men are forever enrolled in the school of thought. Monsieur Pascal is a true renaissance man because of his great contributions to geometry, physics and philosophy. Important accomplishments of his decorate the pages of this book.

13: On the night of November 23, 1654 between 10:30pm and 12:30am of the next day, Pascal has an intense religious vision. Immediately after he recorded it in a concise reminder to himself. It commenced, "Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars," and ended in quoting Psalm 119:16: "I will not forget thy word. Amen." From this point on, Pascal sewed this document into all of his coats, transferring it every time he changed clothes.

14: In 1657, Pascal's ten year old nice, Marguerite Périer, suffered from a painful, hopeless condition which caused her to exude pus from her eyes and nose. Then, on the 24th of March, a believer presented a thorn he thought to be of the crown that tortured Christ. A nun, after witnessing the girl suffer, touched the young girl's sore with the holy thorn. The night of this occurrence, Marguerite Périer expressed that she was without pain. Her condition disappeared. After all of her physicians were summoned, they all agreed it was a miracle.

15: In 1728, Pope Benedict XIII used Pascal's niece's recovery as proof that the age of miracles had not passed. The Miracle of Marguerite Périer renewed Blaise Pascal's faith and prompted him to begin writing his final testaments, the Pensées, which were to be unfinished.

16: Pascal's "Pensées", or "Thoughts", were not completed before his death. It was intended to be an in-depth examination and defense of Christianity. After his death, upon rifling through personal items, an abundance of scraps displaying isolated thoughts were discovered.

17: These papers were collected in the best order they could be and published as "Pensées de M. Pascal sur la religion, et sur quelques autres sujets," which translates to "Thoughts of M. Pascal on religion, and on some other subjects." The book, which appeared in print in 1670, soon became a classic and is still today considered a masterpiece of aphorisms and French prose.

18: DEATH. Pascal lived his life with the belief that suffering is natural and necessary. In 1659, Pascal became seriously ill. His last major achievement was inaugurating the first bus line, a carriage with many seats, in Paris.

19: Jacqueline, Blaise's sister, died in 1661. After her death, Pascal's illness took a turn for the worse. Blaise Pascal died on August 19, 1662. His last words were "May God never abandon me." He rests in the cemetery of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.

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