The man who gave us the world’s first mechanical calculator Pascaline – Blaise Pascal was a child prodigy, a great scientist, a philosopher, a prolific writer and a mathematician of French origin. From discovering Pascal’s Theorem at the tender age of 16, to inventing the first mechanical calculator at 19 to help his father, Pascal was an all rounder who contributed a lot towards various fields.
He was a great philosopher, who, at 23 years of age converted from Christianity to Jansenism. It was after he reached 31 years of age when Pascal redirected his life and purpose towards fulfilling religious pursuits instead of scientific ones. This included religious writings that he continued with till he passed away at 39. Now, you have the chance to discover a great deal about this magnanimous personality from this list that is showcasing 18 Blaise Pascal inventions and facts that will cover his inventions, works, life, death and family.
1. Pascal’s contribution to the branch of Projective Geometry
One of the the greatest Blaise Pascal inventions was his contribution towards the branch of Projective Geometry, a branch or field that deals with various in-variants of geometrical figures. When he produced his theorem, he was only 16 years old. And his theorem came to be known as Pascal’s Theorem. It was basically an essay that Pascal wrote and was named Essai pour les coniques, meaning an Essay on Conics. In this essay, he studied geometrical figures like hexagons under projection. It was in this essay that Pascal introduced the Pascal line.
An interesting trivia in this list of Blaise Pascal facts relates to his education. Blaise Pascal never went to school, or attended any university. He was given education at home by his father, Etienne. Pascal’s mother Antoinette passed away when he was merely a toddler. Etienne was a civil servant and was a member of noblesse de robe, the French aristocratic class. He home tutored his three children – Pascal, Gilberte and Jacqueline in Paris while working on his various scientific pursuits.
3. Blaise Pascal founded the modern theory of Probability
Touted as Pascal’s greatest mathematics inventions, the theory of probability was in fact a great contribution to the field of mathematics by this genius mathematician. He, along with his gambler cum mathematician cum lawyer friend – Pierre de Fermat, founded this theory while discussing on the matter related with gambling problems in 1654. This theory led to many innovative changes in concepts and ideas in the fields of social science and economics.
4. The first fully mechanical calculator was invented by Pascal
It was in 1642 that Blaise Pascal, in his endeavor to help his father to solve tedious tax calculations, invented the first and world’s only fully functional mechanical calculator. His calculator, also known as Pascal’s calculator or Pascaline could perform multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. While, one could directly add and subtract using the calculator, for division and multiplication, one had to use the repeated addition and subtraction method.
5. Pascal’s exclusive Provincial Letters symbolized his intense religious bent of mind
Blaise Pascal books like Pensees and Provincial Letters are famed for their theological content and purpose. Blaise Pascal got religious visions in 1654 leading him to write 18 letters from 1656 to 1657. In these letters, he focused on religion and defended the Jansenist community against the Jesuits. He came out strongly in support of Jansenists in a rather witty way, thereby, causing great uproar in the Jesuit community. In his letters, he mocked the various Jesuit institutions and garnered much aplomb from the public. The letters were declared a heresical act, and hence were ordered to be destroyed by King Louis XIV. But, these survived to influence the writings of French writers like Voltaire.
6. Bad health affected Pascal for most of his adult life
This great scientist and mathematician suffered from sickness all throughout his adult life. The facts about his illnesses were brought to limelight in his biography written by his sister Gilberte. She disclosed that Pascal never stayed healthy after he crossed 18 years of age. Throughout his life, Blaise Pascal remained sickly, always in pain or on some kind of medication. He passed away at the young age of 39 on 19th August in the year 1662. This genius mathematician was also a great writer of French prose and is famous for his works that include Pensees and Letters Provinciales.
It was because of Pascal’s father, Etinenne’s accident that the whole Pascal family converted to another faith that believed in living life dedicated to god – Jansenism. It so happened that Etienne, in 1646, slipped and broke his hip. Brothers Deschamps were the best bone setters of that time, and were called upon for the treatment. These brothers belonged to Jansenism movement and believed in living an austere and god fearing life. They lived with the Pascal family for about three months during which they motivated them to join their movement by preaching their beliefs. This conversion was the starting point for Pascal as far as religious pursuits were concerned and is known as the ‘First Conversion’.
8. Pascal’s Law or Principle in Hydrostatics was discovered in 1647
When writing about Blaise Pascal inventions, his law of hydrostatics has to be mentioned. This law, also called Pascal’s Principle was founded in 1647 and is touted as the most influential law in hydrostatics. This law is the underlying principle of the hydraulic press that worked by using hydraulic pressure which multiplies force. The modern day syringe was also invented by Blaise Pascal on the basis of Pascal’s Law.
9. Pascal made Pascal’s Triangle famous in the west
Before Pascal popularized the Pascal’s Triangle in 1653, the western world had little clue about its existence, though, the concept of tabular presentation of arithmetic was invented in 2nd century BC by Pingala, an Indian mathematician. It was in 1653 that Blaise Pascal wrote his famed mathematical book called Traité du triangle arithmétique or Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle, and brought the concept to the people of the west. Therefore, the triangle is named after him.
Here is one very interesting trivia in this collection of Blaise Pascal facts, and it relates to his falling ill because of witchcraft. When Pascal was just one year old, he fell seriously sick in which he was affected with swollen abdomen and random fits and twists. Most people attributed the reason to witchcraft. According to them, Pascal fell sick because of a black magic spell cast by an elderly woman. On being confronted, the woman accepted to have cast an evil spell on Pascal. On her prescription, his family procured special herbs for his treatment and also sacrificed two cats. It took three weeks for Blaise to walk on his feet again.
11. Pascal’s theological work Pensees is a masterpiece of French prose
Pensees is regarded as a jewel among the rest of Blaise Pascal books, and is definitely a masterpiece by the great French Classical Period writer. Pensees or Thoughts offered a detailed examination of Christian faith, and included fragments written about Pascal’s philosophical ideas. It was published seven years after (in 1669) Pascals’ death in 1662. Pensees is regarded as a gem of French prose and a landmark as well. It was Pascal’s first work that offered light on Christian apologetics.
Pascal was a child prodigy tutored and educated by his father Etienne Pascal. The young Blaise was taught less of mathematics, and more of history, philosophy, geography, languages like Greek and Latin. Pascal was also given lessons on the Bible as well as civil law. It was at 12 years age that Blaise started showing an avid interest in geometry. He started drawing geometrical figures all by himself and drew conclusions on his own. Seeing his mathematical bent of mind, at the tender age of 13, Pascal was introduced by his father to the society that discussed on high level topics related to science and maths. This society was called Académie libre, and Blaise took an instant liking to it. He became a member. While there, he rubbed his shoulders with other prominent personalities like Fermat and Descartes.
It was in 1654 that Blaise Pascal denounced his scientific pursuits forever and went religious. After his father’s death in 1651 and the subsequent decision of his sister Jacqueline to become a nun, Pascal had intense visions while lying on his bed. This religious revelation or second conversion changed his bent of mind forever. He became a philosopher and a religious man, and dedicated all his time to the study of god and religious pursuits.
Who would have imagined that the roulette machine was an invention by the influential scientist, inventor and mathematician, Blaise Pascal? But, it definitely falls in laise Pascal inventions list for it was Pascal that started it! It was in 1655 that Pascal, being the avid inventor, was experimenting to invent a perpetual machine that could operate without using energy from an external source. He was trying to make improvement to his mechanical calculator, Pascaline, and in doing so, accidentally discovered the roulette machine. Thanks to him, we now have a great casino game with us!
15. The discovery that with a decrease in height, atmospheric pressure too decreases
Blaise Pascal founded a direct relation between atmospheric pressure and height when Florin Perier, his brother in law conducted an experiment at Puy-de-Dome in France. Pascal, owing to ill health couldn’t conduct the experiment himself. In the experiment, one barometric tube was installed at a place in the town, while, the other twin barometric tube was placed on top of a mountain. A team of scientists monitored the readings of both, and concluded that the mercury level in the first tube remained the same, but, the level of mercury in the second tube diminished with an increase in height. Therefore, it was concluded by Pascal that atmospheric pressure decreased with an increase in height.
Blaise Pascal invented the wrist watch and was the first man to wear it. The watch that he invented was a pocket size watch. Pascal strapped the wrist watch using a piece of string. We do not have the time when the watch was discovered. Most historical books claim that the first watch was discovered by Peter Heinlein, a German. Blaise Pascal simply improvised the use by tying it on his wrist using a string.
17. The Computer language Pascal developed and named after the mathematician
Pascal was the new computer language developed in 1972 by a scientist called Nicklaus Wirth who dedicated it to the great inventor and mathematician Blaise Pascal. The genius’s contribution to calculating and computing could never be forgotten, and in order to recognize his contributions, Wirth named his new computing language Pascal.
Since, Pascal contributed a lot towards studying and finding new concepts in the field of atmospheric pressure, it was, but natural to honor him and his legacy by naming a unit of atmospheric pressure Pascal (Pa). Blaise Pascal worked and experimented in the fields of hydrodynamics and Hydrostatics, thereby, contributing mightily to these fields. He invented Pascal’s Law and his influential principle. He conducted two of the most detailed studies namely, Treatise on the Weight of the Mass of Air and Treatise on the Equilibrium of Liquids that got published to become the benchmarks for hydraulics and hydrostatics sciences.
All of the above mentioned Blaise Pascal inventions and facts will help you understand the contributions of this great French mathematician who was also an influential theologist, scientist and a philosopher of the 17th century. We hope we have honored his legacy by covering these interesting facts about his life and works in today’s post.