Heroes of learning:Blaise Pascal

Sorry-we thought you only get child prodigies in music, but Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is definitely the exception. To look at his accomplishments is to be dazzled, especially as all was finished by the time of his early death-he didn’t even break forty.

Where shall we start? You want mathematics? He had made important contributions to geometry by the time he was 16, and went on to collaborate with the famous Fermat on probability theory. How about technology? He invented the first calculating machine to save his poor old Dad, who was a taxman, from doing so many calculations. Science. then? Pascal it was who proved that vacuums exist, and whose work led to all kinds of advances in pressure and gas studies. Or how about philosophy? He was the one who showed that science was best done free of received opinions, old books and dead experts.

Growing tired of all this, he turned to theology (a big favourite of Newton‘s). He threw in his lot with a Catholic sect called the Jansenists, whose principal raison d’etre seems to have been opposition to the Jesuits. Jesuits were another Catholic sect whose main aim appears to have been opposing Jansenism. Yet the famous Pascal’s wager which he developed during the bitter controversy is still regarded by persons of Faith as the litmus test of their entirely respectable choice.

For us at LSS, Pascal is prof of many things. That learning of all kinds knows no boundaries of nation and faith. That setting the intelligent free produces long term benefits for the rest of us. And the modern expression of his wide open mind is Wikipedia to which you should donate now. We do.


#pascal #atmosphericphysics #theology #mathematics #probability #fermat

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