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Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher, who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probabilities.
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As a result of their influence, Blaise became devoutly religious.
A true trailblazer and a child prodigy to boot, Blaise Pascal started his prolific stream of groundbreaking inventions and discoveries when he was still just a teen.
In 1642, at age 18, inspired by the idea of making his father's job of calculating taxes easier, Pascal invented an early calculator, dubbed the Pascaline. (German polymath William Schickard had developed and manufactured an earlier version of the digital calculator in 1624.) The Pascaline was a numerical wheel calculator with eight movable dials, each representing a numerical digit, such as ones, tens and hundreds. It was capable of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
Pascal's invention was not without its glitches: There was a discrepancy between the calculator's design and the structure of the French currency of the time. The machines went into production in 1642, but Pascal continued to work on improving his calculator until 1645. (Fifty prototypes had been produced by 1652, but the Pascaline was never a big seller. It went out of production less than a year later.)
In 1648, eight years after his first essay was published, Pascal starting writing more of his theorems on conic sections in The Generation of Conic Sections, but he pushed the work aside until 1654.
At the end of the 1640s, Pascal temporarily focused his experiments on the physical sciences. Following in Evangelista Torricelli’s footsteps, Pascal experimented with how atmospheric pressure could be estimated in terms of weight. By taking readings of the barometric pressure at various altitudes, Pascal validated Torricelli's theory concerning the cause of barometrical variations.
In the 1650s, Pascal set about trying to create a perpetual motion machine, the purpose of which was to produce more energy than it used. In the process, he stumbled upon an accidental invention. In 1655, Pascal's roulette machine was born. Aptly, he derived its name from the French word for "little wheel."
Overlapping his work on the roulette machine was Pascal's correspondence with mathematical theorist Pierre de Fermat, beginning in 1654. Through their letters discussing dice problems, and through Pascal's own experiments, Pascal discovered that there is a fixed likelihood of any certain outcome when it comes to the roll of the dice. This discovery was the basis of the mathematical theory of probability, the eye-opening realization that events and their outcomes did not occur randomly.
Although the specific dates are uncertain, Pascal also reportedly invented a rather primitive form of the wristwatch. It was an informal invention to say the least: The mathematician was known to strap his pocket watch to his wrist with a piece of string, presumably for the sake of convenience while tinkering with his other inventions.
Pascal struggled with insomnia and a painful digestive disorder called dyspepsia from the time he was a teen.
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