Ever since Blaise Pascal was a child, he’s had a streak of curiosity for mathematics. Today, he’s known to be a French mathematician, physicist, theologian, and religious philosopher. He grew up as a prodigy in mathematics and physics, while also spending a majority of his life pursuing a religious career. Today, he’s known for his invention of the Pascal Wager, the Pascaline calculator, and for the many books he has written on topics to do with religion, mathematics, and science.

Born in Clermont, France on June 19, 1623 to his parents, Étienne Pascal and Antoinette Begon, Pascal grew up as the only son in the household along with his two sisters. But, he was particularly close to his two sisters, Gilberte and Jacqueline. In other sources, it mentions that Pascal may have have three other sisters. When he was only three years old his mother died in 1626 leaving his father to raise the family on his own. They then moved back to Paris because his father did not believed in the local education school system and decided he could teach his children just as well as any schoolteacher could.

By the time Pascal was twelve years old, he exceeded all expectations and became circus about the world around him. When Pascal was a young boy his father purposely hid the subject of mathematics and geometry from him because he thought if it introduced to him too early then Pascal would abandon the study of classics and languages, Greek and Latin. He even even made his own terminology without prior knowledge on mathematical terms. However, his father’s ban from those practices lead to the opposite effect. Instead of encouraging Pascal to study classics, it only sparked his interest more and eventually lead him to pursue his own scientific studies that the world still uses today.

One of his more notable innovations is Pascal’s Triangle, a creation that is still used in math classes such as Honors Pre-Calculus. Pascal’s Triangle is an infinite equilateral triangle that consists of numbers that follow certain rules and patterns. However, it’s noted that Pascal was not the first person to invent this. It is said that the Chinese and Indians discovered it in the 13th century and although there were many variations, it still contained the same idea. Similar to the idea of the period table of elements, Pascal’s triangle is arranged in a way that it draws attention to patterns. Its main purpose is to determine the expanded pattern of binomial coefficients. This concept can be used in different areas within mathematics including number theory, algebra, probability, and combinatorics. Personally, I used Pascal’s triangle more in Algebra 2 to find terms, coefficients, and combinations.

Pascal also developed the Pascline, a calculator invented in 1642 that is considered to be the first mechanical, or digital, calculator in the world. Since his father was a chief tax officer and also a mathematician. It’s alternatively called Pascal’s Adder, Pascalene, or Pascale and was only capable of addition and subtraction. It was considered a digital calculator and not as an analog calculator because it represented numerical information as discrete digits. Each digit was represented by a gear that had ten different positions, also known as a ten-state device, that could technically count from zero to nine. When it reached the number ten, the calculator would reset to zero and advance the gear in the next column to symbolize the action of carrying to the next digit. Although Pascal himself produced 50 prototypes of the Pascaline by 1652, it was never sold on a bigger scale.

In 1654, Pascal and Pierre de Fermat, a mathematical theorist wrote letters discussing topics dealing with probability and their experiments. Through these letters, Pascal discovered that when using a dice, there is a certain likelihood of a particular outcome. His discovery was the foundation for the mathematical theory of probability. Within these letters, it is also assumed that Pascal invented the early form of the wristwatch, he would strap his pocket watch to his wrist using a piece of string for the sake of saving time to fiddle with other inventions.

In addition to these achievements, Pascal has also contributed in writing on religious matters and even published a series of 18 letters between 1656 and 1657 using the alias Louis de Montalte. However, in these letters he attacked many Catholic beliefs which made King Louis XIV angry. Eventually, Pascal’s work was shredded and burnt in 1660.

Pascal paved a new road for discovery, contributing to different fields in mathematics. On August 19, 1662, Pascal died from stomach cancer at the age of 39. With his many achievements, he is still important to modern mathematics and science, as many relevant ideas and discoveries are based on his works and experiments.

Mathematician Blaise Pascal. His contribution to algebra. (2022, Oct 03).
Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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