Blaise Pascal

Essay by Jim HezmanHigh School, 11th gradeA+, December 1996

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Blaise Pascal was born in Clermont France on June 19, 1623, and

died in Paris on Aug. 19, 1662. His father, a local judge at Clermont, and

also a man with a scientific reputation, moved the family to Paris in 1631,

partly to presue his own scientific studies, partly to carry on the education of

his only son, who had already displayed exceptional ability. Blaise was kept

at home in order to ensure his not being overworked, and it was directed

that his education should be at first confined to the study of languages, and

should not include any mathematics. Young Pascal was very curious, one

day at the age of twelve while studying with his tutor, he asked about the

study of geometry. After this he began to give up his play time to persue the

study of geometry. After only a few weeks he had mastered many properties

of figures, in particular the proposition that the sum of the angles of a

triangle is equal to two right angles.

His father noticed his sons ability in

mathematics and gave him a copy of Euclids's Elements, a book which

Pascal read and soon mastered. At the young age of fourteen he was

admitted to the weekly meetings of Roberval, Mersenne, Mydorge, and

other French geometricians. At the age of sixteen he wrote an essay on

conic sections; and in 1641 at the age of 18 he construced the first

arithmetical machine, an instrument with metal dials on the front on which

the numbers were entered. Once the entries had been completed the answer

would be displayed in small windows on the top of the device. This device

was improved eight years later. His correspondence with Fermat about this

time shows that he was then thurning his attention to...