Blaise Pascal significantly contributed to the natural and applied sciences, particularly the study of fluids and clarifying our understanding of pressure and vacuums. He was also an important mathematician who created a new theory of geometry at the age of 16. He laid the foundation for the theory of probabilities, which strongly influenced the development of modern economics and social science. Pascal’s influence in science and math is so great that certain scientific measurements and programming language are named “pascal” after his discoveries.
Additionally, many historians consider Pascal’s mechanical calculator to be the first computer in history. It predates other machines that claim to be the first calculators by more than 100 years. A pretty remarkable invention, considering that he built each component by hand and made the first prototype while he was still a teenager!
Along with Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler, Pascal was one of the scientists who led the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century. The Scientific Revolution unlocked the secrets of the universe previously undiscovered, in turn unleashing the technology of our modern world.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Pascal was a sincere Christian who often wrote about his faith. In his book “Provincial Letters,” Pascal rejects separating morality from spirituality. He viewed salvation as part of a heartfelt desire for the truth, together with an all-encompassing love for God that destroys self-love.
Pascal’s “Pensees” (translated as “Thoughts”), which he did not complete before his death, was intended it to be an examination and defense of the Christian faith. It is still considered to be a masterpiece and a landmark work in French prose. In “Pensees,” Pascal wrote that the indifference of the skeptic toward God must be overcome by a “wager”: if God does not exist, then the skeptic loses nothing by believing in Him; but if God does exist, then the skeptic gains everything, including eternal life, by believing in Him.
Just after his conversion to Christianity, Pascal wrote a passionate poem about his faith that he kept with him at all times. He sewed this poem into his coat and moved it between clothing he wore. It translates from French as follows:
“GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob not of the philosophers and of the learned.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced him, crucified. Let me never be separated from him.”