Blaise Pascal. June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662. French mathematician, mechanic, physicist and philosopher. One of the founders of calculus, the theory of probability and projective geometry, the creator of early samples of calculating mechanisms, the author of the fundamental law of hydrostatics.


Life and Work:

1. “Main interests of his young life lied in the struggle between his striving to delve into academic work and the fame that it brought him, and the awareness of the emptiness and futility of such work, the harmfulness of the temptation of vanity and the desire to devote all of his energy to serving God,” Leo Tolstoy wrote about Pascal. One of his first biographies issued in Russia was titled “French Wiseman Vlas...”


2. One of the greatest minds of the 17th century – a French mathematician, physicist, philosopher, classic of French literature and the founder of calculus, father of the theory of probability and creator of the first calculation machine was born in the city of CLermont-Ferrand, the capital of Auvergne, on the 19th of June, 1623.


3. The gifted boy was educated by his father, a tax officer, who was no stranger to science himself: he studied the curve that is named Pascal Snail in his – not his son's – honor.


4. Blaise' mother died when he was three. Soon his father took the kids and moved to Paris.


5. The father of the future great scholar believed in the theory that every science has its time, and that it would be appropriate for his son to study mathematics from about age 16. But life interfered with his calculations: the boy was so carried away by independent studying, that he proved the Euclid theorem about the sum of angles of a triangle without knowing the name of the figure. And he was not yet familiar with other terms: Blaise called a line a stick, and a circumference a ring.


6. By the time Blaise should have, according to his father, only studied the basics, he proved the theorem about a hexagon fit in a conic section, which is not known as Pascal's theorem.


7. When Blaise was 11, someone stroke a ceramic dish by a knife at dinner. It made a sound. The boy noticed that once the dish was touched by a finger, the sound disappeared. To find an explanation to this, Pascal held a series of experiments and wrote the results in Treatise on Sounds.


8. It was well-known that Pascal used geometry as a remedy and treated headaches by creating geometry problems. Later, only the lazy did not make a joke about how they did the opposite: struggled with geometry problems by creating a headache.


9. At the age of 20, Blaise Pascal felt sorry for his father struggling with calculations and created a calculation machine. Because of that, one of programming languages nowadays carries his name.

Within several years, he constructed approximately fifty samples of this machine and finally received the royal privilege for “Pascal's Wheel.” His sister Gilberte, who later became his biographer, spoke enthusiastically about the invention, “Blaise narrowed the science existing entirely in the human mind down to a mechanism.”


10. Pascal attached another wheel and two handles to a trolley, and thus invented... an ordinary wheelbarrow!


11. His father's acquaintance once told Pascal about the Torrichelli tube. Blaise was inspired, started experimenting and derived the fundamental law of hydrostatics, which now carries his name. The law that we all studied at school: liquid conveys pressure equally in all directions.


12. Pascal confirmed Torrichelli's suggestion about the existence of atmospheric pressure. Because of that, a unit measuring pressure was named after him.


13. A perpetual motion machine suggested by Blaise Pascal also came in handy, but not where the scientist believed it would. Anyone can now see it – it is a roulette in a casino.


14. It is hard to believe that Pascal made all of his scientific discoveries before the age of 31. Then he suddenly stopped his scientific work and devoted himself to religion and literature.


15. Back in 1646, Pascal came across a treatise On Transformation of the Internal Man by Dutch bishop Jansen, where the pursuance of “greatness, knowledge and pleasure” was criticized. The scientist was seized by doubt: what if his research was sinful and ungodly?


16. On the night of November 23, 1654, “from half past ten in the evening till half past midnight,” Pascal, according to his words, endured a shock, hallucination, ecstasy – in simpler words, a mystical insight from above. Having come to his senses, he wrote his rough thoughts on a piece of parchment and sewed it into a flap of his camisole. His biographers call this document “The Memorial” and believe it to be the program of his life. The paper was discovered by a servant who examined deceased Pascal's clothes.


17. Since then, Pascal abandoned systemic scientific work. The only exception was made for the cycloid; however, they say that he got involved with this research to distract from toothache.


18. Fascinated by polemics between Jansenists and Jesuits, Pascal wrote The Provincial Letters – a renown masterpiece of French literature. Voltaire praised it, “Many attempts have been made to paint Jesuits as disgusting; Pascal did more: he painted them as ridiculous.” Published in 1656-1657 under a pseudonym, The Letters nevertheless created serious problems for the author. To avoid imprisonment in the Bastille, Pascal hid from the government: he changed his location and lived under a different name.


19. In 1661, Pascal shared the idea of creating a cheap and affordable for all means of transportation in multiple-seat carriages with his close friend Duke of Roanne. The duke liked the idea, got busy and, on March 18, 1662, the first public transport route was commenced in Paris. The transport was later called omnibus.