Blaise Pascal


He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal’s earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defense of the scientific method.

Blaise was born on 19 June 1623 in Clermont-Ferrand, in the Auvergne region of France. Pascal was the 3rd child of Etienne Pascal and his only son. Blaise’s mother died when he was only 3 years old, so little Pascal was very affected by this loss. In 1632, Etienne and his four children have left Clermont to settle in Paris. Ettiene, a mathematician with unorthodox views on education, decided that Blaise would not learn anything about mathematics until the age of 15 years old. Driven by this ban, at the age of 12 years old, Blaise began to learn geometry alone, discovering that “the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles.” When the father learned about his passion, he was relented and allowed Blaise to have a copy of “Elements” of Euclid.

In 1646, his father was wounded in the leg and had to recuperate at home in the care of two younger brothers from a religious movement that had an influence on the young Pascal who became deeply religious. Also from this period dates his first attempts to study the atmospheric pressure, and in 1647 he demonstrates that void exists, after he and Descartes were contradicted on that truth since 25 September. In 1648, Pascal observed that the atmospheric pressure decreases with height and deduced that the void exists above the atmosphere.

Since May 1653, Pascal wrote “Récit de la grandeexpérience de l’équilibre des liqueurs”(Treatise on the balance of liquids) explaining the law of pressure. Following correspondence with Fermat in the summer of 1654, he laid the foundations of the probability theory. During this period, he had health problems but continued to work until October 1654. On 23 November 1654, after a religious experience, he dedicates his life to Christianity.

In honour of his contributions to science,the name of Pascal was given to the unit of pressure and to a programming language. Pascal was the first person that thought that by using the barometer it can be measured the altitude difference between two points and warned that a change in the length of the mercury column also depends on humidity and air temperature and it can be used to forecast the weather. No less important are the works of Pascal in hydrostatics. In his most important one, “Treatise on liquid balance” he formulated the fundamental law of hydrostatics, then called Pascal’s law. He calculated the size of the hydrostatic pressure,he described the hydrostatic paradox, the law and the principle of communicating vessels and explained the principle of the hydraulic press.

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