Blaise Pascal


Blaise Pascal was born at Clermont, Auvergne, France on June 19, 1628.
He was the son of Étienne Pascal, his father, and Antoinette Bégone, his mother
who died when Blaise was only four years old. After her death, his only family
was his father and his two sisters, Gilberte, and Jacqueline, both of whom
played key roles in Pascal\'s life. When Blaise was seven he moved from
Clermont with his father and sisters to Paris. It was at this time that his
father began to school his son. Though being strong intellectually, Blaise had
a pathetic physique.
Things went quite well at first for Blaise concerning his schooling.
His father was amazed at the ease his son was able to absorb the classical
education thrown at him and "tried to hold the boy down to a reasonable pace to
avoid injuring his health." (P 74,Bell) Blaise was exposed to all subjects, all
except mathematics, which was taboo. His father forbid this from him in the
belief that Blaise was strain his mind. Faced with this opposition, Blaise
demanded to know ‘what was mathematics?\' His father told him, "that generally
speaking, it was the way of making precise figures and finding the proportions
among them." (P 39,Cole) This set him going and during his play times in this
room he figured out ways to draw geometric figures such as perfect circles, and
equilateral triangles, all of this he accomplished. Due to the fact that É
tienne took such painstaking measures to hide mathematics from Blaise, to the
point where he told his friends not to mention math at all around him, Blaise
did not know the names to these figures. So he created his own vocab for them,
calling a circle a "round" and lines he named "bars". "After these definitions
he made himself axioms, and finally made perfect demonstrations." (P 39,Cole)
His progression was far enough that he reached the 32nd proposition of Euclid\'s
Book one. Deeply enthralled in this task his father entered the room un-noticed
only to observe his son, inventing mathematics. At the age of 13 Étienne began
taking Blaise to meetings of mathematicians and scientists which gave Blaise the
opportunity to meet with such minds as Descartes and Hobbes. Three years later
at the age of 16 Blaise amazed his peers by submitting a paper on conic sections.
His sister was quoted as having said "that it was considered so great an
intellectual achievement that people have said they have seen nothing as mighty
since the time of Archimedes." (I:Pascal) This was his first real contribution
to mathematics, but not his last. Note:
www.nd.edu/StudentLinks/akoehl/Pascal.html
Pascal\'s contributions to mathematics from then on were surmasing. From
a young age he was ‘creating science.\' His first scientific work, an essay on
sounds he prepared at a very young age. Once at a dinner party someone tapped a
glass with a spoon. Pascal went about the house tapping the china with his fork
then dissappeard into his room only to emerge hours later having completed a
short essay on sound. He used the same approach to all of the problems he
encountered; working at them until he was satisfied with his understanding of
the problem at hand. A few of his disocoveries stood out more then others, of
them his calculating machine, and his contributions to combinatorial analysis
have made a signifigant contribution to mathematics.
The mechanical calculator was devised by Pascal in 1642 and was brought
to a commercial version in 1645. It was one of the earliest in the history of
computing. ‘Side by side in an oblong box were places six small drums, round
the upper and lower halves chich the numbers 0 to 9 were written, in decending
and ascending orders respectively. According to whichever aritchmatical process
was currently in use, one half of each drum was shut off from outside view by a
sliding metal bar: the upper row of figures was for subtraction, the lower for
addition. Below each drum was a wheel consisting of ten (or twenty of twelve)
movable spokes inside a fixed rim numbered in ten (or more) equal sections from
0 to 9 etc, rather like a clockface. Wheels and rims were all visible on the
box lid, and indeed the numbers to be added or subtracted were fed into the
machine by means of the wheels: 4 for instance, being recorded by using a small
pin to turn the stoke opposite division 4 as far as a catch positioned close to
the outer edge of the box. The procedure for basic arithmatical process