Scientist and Philosopher. Born in Clermont-Ferrand, France, the son of Antoinette Begon and Étienne Pascal, a judge. By 1631, he showed signs of a notable intellect and the family moved to Paris for his education. At the age of eleven, he wrote a brief treatise on the sounds of vibrating bodies. At age 18, he built a mechanical calculator. In 1646, he became enamored of Jansenism, a Catholic splinter philosophy which denied free will and embraced predestination. He studied hydrodynamics and hydro-statics, inventing the syringe and hydraulic press. In 1647 he wrote 'Experiences nouvelles touchant le vide,' which detailed to what degree various liquids could be supported by air pressure, and why there existed a vacuum above the column of liquid in a barometer tube, an assertion which led to conflict with several other prominent scientists. In 1653, he wrote 'Traité du triangle arithmétique' (Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle) followed by 'De l'Esprit géométrique' (On the Geometrical Spirit). In 1654, after a near fatal accident, he turned zealously to religion, after which he wrote the 'Provincial Letters' under the pseudonym Louis de Montalte. When Louis XIV suppressed the Jansenist movement in 1661, he responded with 'Écrit sur la signature du formulaire' (Writ on the Signing of the Form) in support of the oppressed. The following year, his health began to fail rapidly. He died after a series of convulsions at the age of 39, leaving his most influential theological work, 'Apologie de la religion Chrétienne' (Defense of the Christian Religion) unfinished. It was to be published posthumously. His name has been given to Pascal's triangle, and a hydrostatic law; Pascal's Principle, which states that pressure applied to a confined liquid is transmitted undiminished through the liquid in all directions regardless of the area to which the pressure is applied. The university in his home town, la Université Blaise Pascal, is named for him.
Bio by: Iola