Part 1: An Overview
June 19, 1623 ~
August 19, 1662
Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher. He was born
in Clermont-Ferrand, France in 1623, June 19 th . Generally, there are two different
requirements to be a famous scientist. To be born in the really rich family that could
concentrate on studying or had critical family problems such as poverty or bastard.
And Pascal was the latter one. His mother died when he just a toddler. May be due to
this, he also has really poor health, which mean he had to stay inside. So, his father,
Etienne, who was a tax collector and very talented mathematician, thought him at
home, not school. Most things that he thought to his son is languages, and that
influence Pascal, so his is not just a mathematician, but also the philosopher. However,
his father, Etienne don’t teach the math, but teach about languages, Greek and Latin.
This, forbid the math, provoked his interesting about math tremendously. Fortunately,
he was really talented at mathematics also, and he prove his talent to his father by
organizing his own term about math and find the rules of geometry when he was just
He had two sisters, and absence of his mother makes him depend up on his sisters.
After he started studding about Math, especially Geometry, his father, Etienne support him in many ways. As an example, he
accompany him to meetings at Mersenne's Academy in Paris. By the Academy, he could have some exchanges with peer
mathematicians, and that accelerate the study of Pascal a lot. One instance of his achievements, Mystic Hexagram and Essai pour
les Coniques (1640) are the most earliest achievements that Pascal made before he moved his home to Rouen. At 1640, Because of
political turmoil, Etienne have to move toward Rouen, for a taw gatherer. It didn’t impact pascal really, so he kept study about the
math and physics, which he had an interest and started studying for few years ago. Teacher who thought him is Académie libre, they
are just the group of scientist and philosophers. Pascal introduced to them by his father. In that group, he studied philosophical
thinking and math, physics and other academic subjects that pascal needed help.
For the other example of his achievements, he made the first calculator, which named as “pascal line”. He invented this
machine for his father’s working. Since Etienne was a tax gatherer, he needed many calculation for his work. And Pascal felt
interesting about it, and developed that idea to machine help calculation. Pascal’s triangle, which is well known is also invented
during this time period .
Pascal line: world first calculator
OVERVIEW: BIG CONVERSION
The big conversions was happen in his life at 1646, one icy day. His father, Etienne went out for his official
problems and work. He slept on the ice of the road, and heart his leg and pelvis a lot. Pascal's family, specially his
younger sister Jacqueline worried, and they call the doctors(bonesetter). He, the bonesetter was Jansenist brother,
and he was really faith full believer. Because of them, Pascal impressed about their doctrine, because they had
same ideas with him. He surely accept the Jansenist doctrine and spread it to his family. However, this made him
bit faithful, but he still thinking about the science and the math more then faith or religious things. During this
time period, he researched about vacuum, pressure and fluid. Also, he had some exchanges with Pierre de Fermat
about dice and probability.
In the summer of 1647, Pascal fell ill due to being overworked. He and Jacqueline moved back to Paris. He
kept walking on the pressure and vacuum with Evangelista Torricelli, who introduce to pascal by his friends. At
1651, he published the result of the experiment, “Treatise on the vacuum”.
OV E RV I E W: “THE NIGHT FIRE” - 1
honnêteté is the term refer to an entire code of conduct and the gallant, cheerful lifestyle of an independent-minded
man of the world. This was the name of the group in France at that time, and Pascal impressed by their thinking a lot
such as who seek a life of virtue and happiness apart from God.
His father, Etienne died on September 24, 1651. He was 63 years old. After he died, pascal’s sister
Jacqueline became a nun of Port-Royal abbey. It didn’t influenced pascal much since he was a Jansenist, and their view
about death is quite simple. According to the written latter by Pascal, he wrote “we should not grieve but rejoice at
God’s will; the deceased is now in a better world; and so forth.”
In October of 1654, he experienced the death by fatal accident occurred on the “Pont de Neuilly » of the Pari.
That accident was really critical for his health, since he had poor health and don’t care his body much at that time. That
accident led Pascal to the death. However, by this accident, he changed his sight about the world: more faithful and
sincere. According to the bibliography of pascal which written by Krailsheimer, at November 23, 1654, Pascal
experienced very sacred moments which change his sight completely. He recorded those experience on the parchment,
and kept bring it with him always until he dead. In the parchment, he wrote the solemn pledge such as “Total
submission to Jesus Christ and to my director. Eternally in joy for a day’s trial on earth. I shall not forget thy word” .
OV E RV I E W: “THE NIGHT FIRE” - 2
After he experienced that sacred hallucination, he made his interest towards the religious and philosophical
works. He fascinated to express his religious view point – Jansenist to the words. For example of it, he wrote
pseudonymous letter which called as a Les Provinciales to depend the Jansenist doctrine, on 1656-57. More
specifically, his letter was completely new style and tone for the contemporary writers. It suggest the new paradigm
of make forum for “obfuscation, vituperation, abstruse technical language, and stodgy academic prose”, according
to the biography of Pascal.
One other biggest achievements he did after “The Night Fire” is study about possibility and the book,
“Pensées” This book started 1658, near by the death of Pascal. He was really ill, since he had big fatal accident at
1654. According to Biography.com, when he died, his body was already really damaged, specifically had wound
inside his organs, which was impossible to find it by the equipment of that time period. However, he strived to
Pensées on his last part of life. The book is about logical expressions about the faith and the god, specially religious
view point analyzed by scientific methods such as “wager of Pascla”
Finally, he died at 1:00 AM August 19, 1662, at the age of 39.
Pascal’s contribution to Scientific revolution is really a
lot. In his short life, he spends most of his time to studying
math and sciences, which contributed to Scientific
Revolution a lot. However, he has so many achievements
regard the mathematics and science, so I wrote just part of
Mystic hexagram: This is the title of the study about
geometry, which subject that he had an interest in his life at
first. However, this study is about the hexagram inside the
conic section. If we draw the lines from the each sides of
the hexagram, then point that they will meet are all in the
same line. This was really important discovery that open the
new way of geometry, which called as a projective geometry.
Hydrostatics: He re-established the
things that discovered by Evangelista
Torricelli, who is the Italian scientist of
1600s. He try to make a vacuum with the
tube and the mercury. He pulled the long
cylinder with the mercury, and put that
cylinder inside the beaker, also filled with
mercury. Then, the space is produce at end
of the turned cylinder.
Pascal's triangle and possibility: Pascal’s triangle is really
useful technology when we calculate
an equation of higher degree. This triangle found by pascal when
he was just 13. This triangle has many characteristics, and that
just the one of them.
About the possibility, pascal has a friends name de Mere (real
name: Antoine Gombaud ). One day, he aske a question about
possibility. He was a gambler, and he had some games with
someone. They both have 32 coins, and if some one win 5 to 3,
winner get the 64 coins. But, they just finish their game when de
mere win 2 times and opposite win 1times. Then, how many
coins de mere can get? From this question, pascal and
Fermat(pascal send a solution of the problems that he get) start
the studying about possibility.
On the other hand, Pascal had just few kinds of achievements related with
humanisms or enlightenments of that time period. There are two reasons, one is his
age, and other one is his faith. He died when he was just a 39 years old. Sadly, that is
not enough time to express his every idea. Also, because of few accidents, he has
deep faith really traumatically. However, here are two piece of works of Pascal.
This book was written by Pascal, at the last part of his life. Just few
years before he died, he was really fascinated about Religious activity,
specially about the Jansenists, which denomination of Pascal believed.
And this Pensees is the book about depending Jansenism’s doctrine from
critics from opposite denominations. The meaning of Pensees is
meditation or deep thinking. This book has really special characteristic.
Even though Pascal was really fascinated about religious, this book is
very logically organized and explain about why we have to believe god.
For a evidence of it, “Wager” of the Pascal is included in this book.
This show us the specialty of Pascal’s thinking. Unlike peer thinkers,
he was really faithful. During the age of reason, he overturn the idea of
enlightenment and rather use logic to explain the god, which is the
symbol of ungrounded thinking for that time thinkers.
As you can see, this is how did he
think about god and heaven. If
someone live really righteously, then
it doesn’t matter whether god exist or
not. This is what pascal suggested to
peoples and make them believe god.
The Provincial letters are collection of 18 letters published by Pascal at 1656 to 1657.
The letters were also about the Jansenism, which is the denomination of Christian,
specially influenced by puritans a lot. This denomination started by Cornelis Jansen and
based on port – royal abbey. Main content of the letter is about depending Jansenism
from other opposite denomination, such as Jesuits. However, the letters suggested
completely new way of writing for thinkers of that time, and that impacted on many
writing of peer thinkers of Pascal. Specifically, the letter include the things about
theological problems between many denominations of that time. Pascal used many
expressions like satire or sarcastic examples to explain the problems of the situation that
they are in. That expressions make this letter really influenced to peer writers of Pascal.
He was not really impactful or well-known like Descartes or other
tinkers of enlightenment period, but he has many influences on
scientific revolution. Also, he’s special view point about the religious
impacted the peer thinkers, and gave them a wider perspective about
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Julia Chew. "Blaise Pascal." Blaise Pascal. Accessed April 29, 2016.
David Simpson. "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed
April 29, 2016. http://www.iep.utm.edu/pascal-b/#SH2b.
Person, and Chris Rodieck. "Pascal vs Descartes." Prezi.com. Accessed April 29, 2016.
"Blaise Pascal." Christian History. Accessed April 29, 2016.