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Pascal, Blaise

Born: 1623 AD
Died: 1662 AD
Nationality: French
Categories: Mathematicians, Philosophers, Physicists

1623 – He was born on the 19th day of June of this year in Clermont-Ferrand, France. He Blaise Pascal lost his mother, Antoinette Begon, at the age of three. His father, Étienne Pascal, was a local judge and member of the petite noblesse, who also had an interest in science and mathematics. Blaise Pascal was brother to Jacqueline Pascal the youngest sibling and Gilberte, the eldest of the three.


1631 – Shortly after the death of his mother, his father moved with them to Paris. Étienne, who never remarried, decided that he alone would educate his children, for they all showed extraordinary intellectual ability, particularly his son Blaise.


1634 – At the age of eleven, he composed a short treatise on the sounds of vibrating bodies and Étienne responded by forbidding his son to further pursue mathematics until the age of fifteen so as not to harm his study of Latin and Greek. One day, however, Étienne found Blaise (now twelve) writing an independent proof that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles with a piece of coal on a wall.


1639 – He was a mathematician of the first order. Pascal helped create two major new areas of research. He wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of sixteen.


1642 – In an effort to ease his father’s endless, exhausting calculations, and recalculations, of taxes owed and paid, Pascal, not yet nineteen, constructed a mechanical calculator capable of addition and subtraction, called Pascal’s calculator or the Pascaline, to help his father with his work. The Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris and the Zwinger museum in Dresden, Germany, exhibit one of his original mechanical calculators.


1646 – He had learned of Evangelista Torricelli’s experimentation with barometers. Having replicated an experiment, which involved placing a tube, filled with mercury upside down in a bowl of mercury, Pascal questioned what force kept some mercury in the tube and what filled the space above the mercury in the tube.


1653 – Pascal employed his arithmetical triangle in this year, but no account of his method was printed until 1665.


1654 – He corresponded with Pierre de Fermat from this year and later on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. Following a mystical experience in late this year, he abandoned his scientific work and devoted himself to philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensées.


1658 – The last mathematical work of Pascal was that on the cycloid in 1658. The cycloid is the curve traced out by a point on the circumference of a circular hoop, which rolls along a straight line.


1662 – He passed away on the 19th day of August of this year in Paris, France.