Among the contemporaries of Descartes none displayed greater natural genius than Pascal, but his mathematical reputation rests more on what he might have done than on what he actually effected, as during a considerable part of his life he deemed it his duty to devote his whole time to religious exercises.
He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a Tax Collector in Rouen. Pascal's earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli.
In 1646, he and his sister Jacqueline identified with the religious movement within Catholicism known by its detractors as Jansenism. Following a mystical experience in late 1654, he had his "second conversion", abandoned his scientific work, and devoted himself to philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensees.
In honor of his scientific contributions, the name Pascal has been given to the SI unit of pressure, to a programming language, and Pascal's law (an important principle of hydrostatics), and as mentioned above, Pascal's triangle and Pascal's wager still bear his name.
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Epitaph of M. Pascal, Pere
HERE lies, etc.
Illustrious for his great knowledge which was recognized by the scholars of all Europe; more illustrious still for the great probity which he exercised in the offices and employments with which he was honored; but much more illustrious for his exemplary piety. He tasted good and bad fortune, that he might be known in every thing ...read
Comparison Between Christians of Early Times and Those of To-Day
IN early times, Christians were perfectly instructed in all the points necessary to salvation; whilst we see to-day so gross an ignorance of them, that it makes all those mourn who have sentiments of tenderness for the Church.
Men only entered then into the Church after great labors and long desires; they find their way into it now without any t ...read
Conversation of Pascal with M. de Saci on Epictetus and Montaigne
"M. PASCAL came, too, at this time, to live at Port-Royal des Champs. I do not stop to tell who this man was, whom not only all France, but all Europe admired; his mind always acute, always active, was of an extent, an elevation, a firmness, a penetration, and a clearness exceeding any thing that can be believed.... This admirable man, being finall ...read
Discourse on the Passion of Love
MAN  is born for thought; therefore he is not a moment without it; but the pure thoughts that would render him happy, if he could always maintain them, weary and oppress him. They make a uniform life to which he cannot adapt himself; he must have excitement and action, that is, it is necessary that he should sometimes be agitated by those passio ...read
Discourses on the Condition of the Great
IN order to enter into a real knowledge of your condition, consider it in this image:
A man was cast by a tempest upon an unknown island, the inhabitants of which were in trouble to find their king, who was lost; and having a strong resemblance both in form and face to this king, he was taken for him, and acknowledged in this capacity by al ...read
Of the Geometrical Spirit
WE may have three principal objects in the study of truth: one to discover it when it is sought; another to demonstrate it when it is possessed; and a third, to discriminate it from the false when it is examined.
I do not speak of the first; I treat particularly of the second, and it includes the third. For if we know the method of proving the t ...read
On the Conversion of the Sinner
THE FIRST  thing with which God inspires the soul that he deigns to touch truly, is a knowledge and most extraordinary insight by which the soul considers things and herself in a manner wholly new.
This new light gives her fear, and brings her a trouble that penetrates the repose which she found in the things that made her delights.
She ca ...read
Pensees - Table of Contents
Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)
by Blaise Pascal
translated by W. F. Trotter
It might seem that about Blaise Pascal, and about the two works on which his fame is founded, everything that there is to say had been said. The details of his life are as fully known as we can expect to know them; his mathematical and physical disco ...read
Prayer, to Ask of God the Proper Use of Sickness
I. LORD, whose spirit is so good and so gentle in all things, and who art so merciful that not only the prosperity but the very disgrace that happens to thy elect is the effect of thy mercy, grant me the favor not to act towards me as towards a heathen in the condition to which thy justice has reduced me: that like a true Christian I may recognize ...read
Preface to the Treatise on Vacuum
THE RESPECT that we bear to antiquity is at the present day carried to such a point on subjects in which it ought to have less weight, that oracles are made of all its thoughts and mysteries, even of its obscurities; that novelties can no longer be advanced without peril, and that the text of an author suffices to destroy the strongest reasons.... ...read
The Art of Persuasion
THE ART of persuasion has a necessary relation to the manner in which men are led to consent to that which is proposed to them, and to the conditions of things which it is sought to make them believe.
No one is ignorant that there are two avenues by which opinions are received into the soul, which are its two principal powers: the understanding ...read