Pascal, Blaise

Pascal, Blaise
   mathematician, physicist, philosopher
   Considered one of the great minds of Western intellectual history, Blaise Pascal was born in Clermont-Ferrand. His father, who had early recognized his exceptional gifts, oversaw his education and brought the family to live in Paris (1631), where the young Blaise met with scholars. At age 16, he was the author of an "Essai sur les conîques," in which he put forth what is now known as Pascal's theorem, and invented one of the first adding machines three years later. in 1646, he verified the hypotheses of the italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli through experiments on barometric pressure and was able to affirm that "Nature abhors a vacuum." (Expériences nouvelles touchant le vide, 1647). These principles were later reaffirmed in his treatises Équilibre des liqueurs and Pesanteur de la masse de l'air (1663). In 1654, in conjunction with the mathematician pierre de fermât, Pascal formulated the theory of probability in his famous Traité du triangle arithmetique. His methodology always reflected his emphasis on empirical experimentation and his belief that human progress is perpetuated by the accumulation of the knowledge thus gained. Some time before 1647, he came under the influence of jansenism and entered the Jansenist community at Port-Royal, where he led a rigorously ascetic life until his death. In 1656, he wrote his famous 18 Lettres provinciales critiquing that movement. His most positive religious statements appeared posthumously, Apologie de la réligion chrétienne (1662), in which he posed the alternatives of potential salvation and eternal damnation ("if you win, you win everything, if you lose, you lose nothing"), and in his last work, Pensées sur la religion et sur quelques autres sujets (1670), dealing with original sin, faith, and revelation. His mystical concept of a hidden God appears in his Lettres à Madamoiselle de Roannez, and his views on classicism and literature in L'Art de persuader (ca. 1657). Pascal, who is ranked among the finest French polemicists, and whose original prose style is much celebrated, is known as one of the most eminent physicists and mathematicians of his age and also as one of the greatest mystical writers in Christian literature.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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  • Pascal,Blaise — Pas·cal (pă skălʹ, pä skälʹ), Blaise. 1623 1662. French mathematician, philosopher and inventor. His early work included the invention of the adding machine and syringe, and the co development with Fermat of the mathematical theory of probability …   Universalium

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