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Famous Mathematician: Blaise Pascal

Growing Up
Home | Family | Growing Up | Adult Life | Pascal's Work And Inventions | Bibliography

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In 1631, Pascal liquidated his assets and moved the family to Paris so that he could engage in his own mathematical and scientific studies with the help of the best minds in France. Etienne had unusual educational views and educated his son with a unique method that relied on finding principles rather than memorization. He designed a curriculum of languages, science, mathematics and geometry, with the intent on preparing the young boy for a scientific career.
 
Blaise proved Euclid's theorems on his own by the age of twelve and attempted his first thesis on acoustics as soon as he could write. Yet, it was his younger sister Jacqueline who became the family wonder. Her gift for poetry garnered her a bit local renown and overshadowed her older brother's mathematical talents. By 1634, Etienne, who was becoming a scientist of some prominence and recipient of a royal commission to verify scientific discoveries, was introducing Blaise to the finest minds of the age at the Paris Academy. These professionals discussed philosophy, mathematics, geometry and the Bible. There, Blaise met the playwright Cornielle, the mathematician Fermat, and the philosopher Descartes.
 
At the age of 14 Blaise Pascal started to accompany his father to Mersenne's meetings. Mersenne belonged to the religious order of the Minims and his small room in Paris was a frequent meeting place for Gassendi, Roberval, Carcavi, Auzout, Mydorge, Mylon, Desargues and many others. By the age of 15, Blaise came to admire the work of Desargues. 
 
When civil conflict threatened the family fortune in 1638, Etienne protested that the government lacked involvement and consequently, was forced into hiding. While the Pascal family were in hiding, Pascal wrote his first mathematical piece on cones (a work now lost). 
In 1639, Jacqueline's poetic pleas on her father's behalf charmed the King and Cardinal Richelieu into giving Etienne a pardon and making him chief tax collector in the unstable Normandy region. Etienne And Blaise, after a year of hiding, could return to Mersenne's meetings, which they were forced to avoid the previous months. At the age of sixteen, Pascal presented a single piece of paper to one of Mersenne's meetings in June 1639. It contained a number of projective geometry theorems, including Pascal's mystic hexagon.

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