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Blaise Pascal was born in Clermont France on June 19, 1623 to Etienne Pascal. His mother died when he was only 3. He was the third of four children and the only boy. He was described as a man of: small stature, poor health, loud spoken, somewhat overbearing, precious, stubbornly persevering, a perfectionist, highly pugnacious yet seeking to be humble and meek.
Pascal's father had somewhat unorthodox views on education, so he decided to teach his son himself. He forbade any mathematic teachings or material to be given to him and had any such texts removed from their house. Blaise became engulfed with curiosity due to this rule. He started to work with geometry on his own at the age of 12. He discovered that the sum of the three angles of a triangle is equivalent to two right angles. When his father discovered this he then allowed Blaise a copy of Euclid.
At the age of 14 Blaise began accompanying his father to Mersenne's meetings. Mersenne was a member of a religious order of Minims. His cell held many meetings for the likes of Gassendi, Roberval, Carcavi, Auzout, Mydorge, Mylon, Desargues and others. By the time he was 15 Blaise admired the work of Desargues greatly. At 16 Pascal presented a single piece of paper at a Mersenne's meeting in June 1639. It held many of his geometry theorems, including his mystic hexagon.
In December 1639 he and his family left Paris and moved to Rouen where his father Etienne was appointed tax collector for Upper Normandy. Soon after settling down in Rouen his Essay on Conic Sections was published in February of 1640. It was his first great work.
Pascal also invented the first digital calculator to aid his father in his tax collecting duties. For three years he worked 1642 - 1545. Dubbed the Pascaline, it resembled a mechanical calculator of the 1940's. This almost assuredly makes Pascal second only to Shickard who manufactured the first in 1624.
Pascal faced problems with the design of the calculator due to the design of French currency at the time. There were 12 deniers in a sol, and 20 sols in a livre. Therefore there were 240 deniers in a livre. Hence Pascal had to deal with more technical problems to work with this odd way of dividing by 240. Yet the currency system remained the same in France until 1799, but Britain's similar system lasted until 1971. Production of the Pascaline began in 1642. It was recorded by Adamson that:
"By 1652 fifty prototypes had been produced, but few machines were sold, and manufacturing of Pascal's arithmetical calculator ceased in that year."
In 1646 Etienne Pascal injured his leg and had to recuperate in his house. Two young brothers from a religious movement outside of Rouen came to help take care of him. Pascal was affected deeply and became very religious. It was at this time that Pascal began many experiments on atmospheric pressure. By 1647 he proved to himself that a vacuum existed. Descartes visited Pascal September the 23rd for 2 days in which they argued about the vacuum which Descartes did not believe existed. Descartes wrote a rather cruel letter to Huygens after visiting the young Pascal. he believed "…has too much vacuum in his head."
In August of 1648 Pascal deduced that, because the atmospheric pressure decreases with height, there must be a vacuum that exists above the atmosphere. Descartes wrote to Carcavi in June 1647 about Pascal's experiment stating: "It was I who two years ago advised him to do it, for although I have not performed it myself, I did not doubt of its success." In October of 1647 Pascal wrote New Experiments Concerning Vacuums which would lead to disputes with various scientists who didn't believe in vacuums.
Etienne Pascal died in September of 1651, which hurt Blaise badly. He wrote to one his sisters giving a deep Christian meaning to death in general and also to his father's death particularly. These ideas were to later form the basis of his philosophical work called Pensees.
Then in May 1653 Pascal worked with mathematics and physics writing Treatise on the Equilibrium of Liquids which he explains his law of pressure called Pascal's law of pressure. Adamson writes: "This treatise is a complete outline of a system of hydrostatics, the first in the history of science, it embodies his most distinctive and important contribution to physical theory."
He also worked on conic sections and he also produced some important theorems in projective geometry. In The Generation of Conic Sections (which he mostly finished by March 1648, but he worked on again in 16
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