Guide Blaise Pascal - A Short Biography

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This was true for triangles, the solved and unsolved. Further studies in hydrodynamics, hydrostatic and atmospheric pressure led Pascal to many discoveries still in use today such as the syringe and hydraulic press. Both these inventions came after years of him experimenting with vacuum tubes. Another tube, a completely straight one open at both extremities M and N, is joined into the curved end of the first tube by its extremity M. Seal B, the opening of the curved end of the first tube, either with your finger or in some other manner and turn the entire apparatus upside down so that, in other words, the two tubes really only consist of one tube, being interconnected.

Fill this tube with quicksilver and turn it the right way up again so that A is at the top; then place the end N in a dish full of quicksilver.

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The whole of the quicksilver in the upper tube will fall down, with the result that it will all recede into the curve unless by any chance part of it also flows through the aperture M into the tube below. The reason for this difference is because the air weights down on the quicksilver in the dish beneath the lower tube, and thus the quicksilver which is inside that tube is held suspended in balance.

But it does not weigh down upon the quicksilver at the curved end of the upper tube, for the finger or bladder sealing this prevents any access to it, so that, as no air is pressing down at this point, the quicksilver in the upper tube drops freely because there is nothing to hold it up or to resist its fall. All of these contributions have made a lasting impact of all of mankind.

Blaise Pascal

Everything that Pascal created is still in use today in some way or another. His primitive form of a syringe is still used in the medical field today to administer drugs and remove blood. Something that anyone can do today. The work he did concerning hydraulic presses are still in use today in factories, and car garages.

Article last reviewed: St. Following more experimentation in this vein, in Pascal produced Experiences nouvelles touchant le vide, which detailed basic rules describing to what degree various liquids could be supported by air pressure. It also provided reasons why it was indeed a vacuum above the column of liquid in a barometer tube. In Pascal continued his experiments by having his brother-in-law carry a barometer to higher elevation, confirming that the level of mercury would change, a result which Pascal replicated by carrying a barometer up and down a church tower in Paris.

The experiment was hailed throughout Europe as finally establishing the principle and value of the barometer. In the face of criticism that some invisible matter existed in Pascal's empty space, Pascal delivered in his reply to Estienne Noel one of the seventeenth century's major statements on the scientific method: "In order to show that a hypothesis is evident, it does not suffice that all the phenomena follow from it; instead, if it leads to something contrary to a single one of the phenomena, that suffices to establish its falsity.

Biographically, we can say that two basic influences led him to his conversion: sickness and Jansenism.

Great creation scientist: Blaise Pascal (–) -

As early as his eighteenth year he suffered from a nervous ailment that left him hardly a day without pain. In a paralytic attack so disabled him that he could not move without crutches. His head ached, his bowels burned, his legs and feet were continually cold, and required wearisome aids to circulation of the blood; he wore stockings steeped in brandy to warm his feet. Partly to get better medical treatment, he moved to Paris with his sister Jacqueline. His health improved, but his nervous system had been permanently damaged.

A History in Mathematics - Blaise Pascal HD

Henceforth he was subject to deepening hypochondria, which affected his character and his philosophy. He became irritable, subject to fits of proud and imperious anger, and he seldom smiled. In , Pascal's father was wounded in the thigh and was consequently looked after by a Jansenist physician.

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In this period, Pascal experienced a sort of "first conversion" and began in the course of the following year to write on theological subjects. Pascal fell away from this initial religious engagement and experienced a few years of what he called a "worldly period" — His father died in , and Pascal gained control over both his inheritance and that of his sister Jacqueline.

In the same year Jacqueline moved to become a nun at Port-Royal, despite her brother's opposition. When the time came for her to make her ultimate vows, he refused to return to her enough of her inheritance to pay her dowry as a bride of Christ; without money she would attain a less desirable position in the convent hierarchy.

Eventually, however, he relented on this point. When this was settled, Pascal found himself both rich and free. He took a sumptuously furnished home, staffed it with many servants, and drove about Paris in a coach behind four or six horses. His leisure was spent in the company of wits, women, and gamblers as evidenced by his work on probability. For an exciting while he pursued in Auvergne a lady of beauty and learning, whom he referred to as the "Sappho of the countryside. Jacqueline reproached him for his frivolity and prayed for his reform.

During visits to his sister at Port-Royal in , he displayed contempt for affairs of the world but was not drawn to God. In late he was involved in an accident at the Neuilly bridge where the horses plunged over the parapet and the carriage nearly followed them. Fortunately, the reins broke and the coach hung half over the edge.

Pascal and his friends emerged, but the sensitive philosopher, terrified by the nearness of death, fainted away, and remained unconscious for some time.

Upon recovering fifteen days later, on November 23, , between ten thirty and twelve thirty at night, Pascal had an intense religious vision and immediately recorded the experience in a brief note to himself, which began: "Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars…" and concluded by quoting Psalm "I will not forget thy word.

His belief and religious commitment revitalized, Pascal visited the older of two convents at Port-Royal for a two-week retreat in January For the next four years, he regularly traveled between Port-Royal and Paris. It was at this point immediately after his conversion when he began writing his first major literary work on religion, the Provincial Letters. Beginning in , Pascal published his memorable attack on casuistry, a popular ethical method used by Catholic thinkers in the early modern period especially the Jesuits.

Where casuistry used model cases to compare each person's actions on a case-by-case basis, Pascal denounced casuistry as the mere use of complex reasoning to justify moral laxity. His method of framing his arguments was clever: the Provincial Letters pretended to be the report of a Parisian to a friend in the provinces on the moral and theological issues then exciting the intellectual and religious circles in the capital.


Pascal, combining the fervor of a convert with the wit and polish of a man of the world, reached a new level of style in French prose. The letter series was published between and under the pseudonym Louis de Montalte and incensed Louis XIV, who ordered in that the book be shredded and burnt. In , the Jansenist school at Port-Royal was condemned and closed down; those involved in it had to sign a papal bull condemning the teachings of Jansen as heretical. But that didn't stop all of educated France from reading them.

Even Pope Alexander, while publicly opposing them, nonetheless was persuaded by Pascal's arguments. He condemned "laxism" in the church and ordered a revision of casuistical texts just a few years later — Aside from their religious influence, the Lettres provinciales were popular as a literary work. Pascal's use of humor, mockery, and vicious satire in his arguments made the letters ripe for public consumption, and influenced the prose of later French writers like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Their faith was to play a big part in the religious pursuits of young Pascal. The young man left his love of mathematics to follow after the study of religion. In the same work, Pensees, develops a theory of which he described the Christian life. On the other side was that as a Christian if what happened when you died was what society believed, you lost nothing. This played into his work with probability. In , after his father had passed away, Blaise Pascal returned to his love of working geometry and physics. He continued his work with gas and liquid pressures.

This work developed into modern hydraulics. His work included the creation of the arithmetical triangle. In this discovery that the placement of various numbers could equate to reachable sums. Events occurred that would cause Pascal to look at religion more in-depth again. He was driving a carriage when the horses spooked and he was involved in a runaway vehicle.

As the lead horses went over the parapet of a bridge, leads broke which allowed Blaise to escape death. The experience was so harrowing that he kept a paper detailing the event close to him for the rest of his life. After this experience, Blaise Pascal came to Christianity. He began to visit the Jansenist monastery in Port-Royal des Champs. Between and , Blaise Pascal wrote and published without his name being involved 18 religious papers entitled Provincial Papers.

These papers were created as a defense for the Jansenism faith which was counter to the beliefs that the Jesuits adhered to and was on trial as heresy. His close friend, also a Jansenism follower, was the main focus of the trials. It was his personal philosophies on how human suffering and a faith in a higher power were related. Towards his later years and due to declining health as a constant from his youth, Blaise Pascal retired to Port-Royal to live out his remaining years.