Blaise Pascal Eulogy, Essay Example

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Essay

As one of his lifelong friends, I can say without any doubt that Blaise Pascal was the greatest mathematician of all time if not the greatest thinker of profound genius. For most of the time that I knew Monsieur Pascal, he suffered horribly from an illness that has not been determined with any certainty and in the end, it took his life at the young age of thirty-nine.

When I first met Monsieur Pascal in the beautiful and wondrous city of Paris in 1643 when Blaise was twenty years old, he was physically of slight build with a loud voice and possessed a somewhat overbearing manner, due to knowing that he was gifted beyond measure. At this time, Blaise could be described as being very precocious, stubbornly persevering, a true perfectionist, and quite ruthlessness in relation to knowing what he wanted from life; however, he could also be meek, humble, and modest beyond words and was able to hold an intelligent conversation on almost any topic under God’s sun (O’Connor & Robertson, “Blaise Pascal”).

It has been said by many of his friends and numerous enemies that Monsieur Pascal as a physicist and mathematician was personally embarrassed by his great genius and many extraordinary talents which most men can only dream of and stubbornly strive to accomplish in their ordinary lives. Others have suggested that Monsieur Pascal was too intelligent, meaning that he looked upon our world with the eyes of a mathematician, rather than with the eyes of a normal human being who in most respects is content with God’s natural wonders and does not need to examine it so closely as if with a magnifying glass and a ruler. One of his colleagues said that Pascal (and I am quoted him) “treated and considered the mysterious existential relations of human beings with God as if they were a geometrical problem” of some sort that needed to be solved if it took ten thousand years (Adamson 156). For my part, I must agree with this assumption, for Blaise Pascal possessed the mind of a true Renaissance man and was enlightened beyond his years.

Blaise Pascal was born on June 19, 1623 in the little village of Clermont in Auvergne, France as the only son of Etienne Pascal. His mother died from an unknown illness when Blaise was a mere child and after her death, his father moved his four children to the bustling city of Paris, where Blaise was taught by his father who possessed some very unorthodox views on how children should be educated. Strange as it may seem, Monsieur Pascal the elder did not approve of young Blaise’s passion for mathematics at the age of ten, so he removed all of the books on mathematics from his home; however, due to his unbounded curiosity, Blaise decided to study the intricacies of mathematics on his own and when his father found out, he relented and went to a nearby bookstore for a copy of Euclid’s mathematics which Blaise at the age of twelve devoured like some ravenous wild animal (O’Connor & Robertson, “Blaise Pascal”).

When Blaise was about twenty-three years old, his great mind seemed to explode with new ideas that most of his contemporaries and those much older than him thought were ridiculous and beyond the realms of science. One of his first “enlightenments” as it were was to imagine that a vacuum existed beyond the earth’s atmosphere and that atmospheric pressure decreases with height. Of course, when he related this to me, I was flabbergasted and told him that it was impossible to deduce the truth concerning this extraordinary theory. Undeterred, in 1647, Blaise set about to write a treatise called

“New Experiments Concerning Vacuums” which after publication startled many, especially Rene Descartes who did not believe in the existence of a vacuum above the earth’s atmosphere. However, we now know that Blaise was correct in his assumption (O’Connor & Robertson, “Blaise Pascal”).

And then, in 1650, as if influenced by some unknown force, Monsieur Pascal literally abandoned many of his studies on mathematics and opted for a long-term study of religion. As he once related to me, his decision for this radical change was based on contemplating “the greatness and the misery of man” (Wilkins, “Blaise Pascal”). Three years later, Blaise’s father died and much of his time became devoted to administering his father’s vast estate. But perhaps this new devotion to religion had not set in properly, for Blaise then reverted back to his studies on mathematics and devised what is now referred to as the arithmetical triangle and the calculus of probabilities.

At this time, Blaise was on the threshold of marriage, but fate intervened when he was involved in a serious accident in 1654 in which his carriage almost careened off of a bridge. His injuries were quite serious yet he did of course survive. For Blaise, this accident was a godsend, for he then abandoned mathematics, due to believing that his survival from the accident was “a special summons from God to abandon the world” (Wilkins, “Blaise Pascal”) and devote his great genius to deciphering the mysteries of life, God, and creation. Thus, for the remainder of his life, Monsieur Pascal devoted himself to the intricacies of religion which resulted in his famous philosophical work Pensees, “a collection of personal thoughts on human suffering and faith in God” and which contained his famous “Pascal’s Wager”–“If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing” (O’Connor & Robertson, “Blaise Pascal”).

Therefore, although this eulogy does not cover the extraordinary and short life of Blaise Pascal in its entirety, I hope that I have at least covered the most important aspects of this great genius of the world. Had he lived beyond his thirty-nine years, we might have seen more astonishing discoveries and revelations from the mind of one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of the 17th century.

Bibliography

Adamson, Donald. Blaise Pascal. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers.

O’Connor, J.J., & E.F. Robertson. “Blaise Pascal.” 1996. Web. 21 May 2012.

Wilkins, D.R. “Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). 2012. Web. 22 May, 2012.

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