Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. Following a mystical experience in late 1654, he abandoned his scientific work and devoted himself to philosophy and theology.

Pascal's earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the construction of mechanical calculators, the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defense of the scientific method.

He made many contributions to mathematics, projective geometry, probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science.

In October 1654, Pascal is said to have been involved in an accident at the Neuilly-sur-Seine bridge where the horses plunged over the parapet and the carriage nearly followed them. Fortunately, the reins broke and the coach hung halfway over the edge. Pascal and his friends emerged unscathed, but the sensitive philosopher, terrified by the nearness of death, fainted away and remained unconscious for some time. Pascal had an intense religious vision and immediately recorded the experience in a brief note to himself which began: "Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars..." and concluded by quoting Psalm 119:16: "I will not forget thy word. Amen." The story of the carriage accident as having led to the experience described in the Memorial is disputed by some scholars. For the next four years, he regularly travelled between Port-Royal, where his sister Jacqueline had entered a Jansenist convent . It was at this point immediately after his conversion when he began writing his first major literary work on religion, the Provincial Letters.

Pascal's wager on the existence or non-existence of God, is considered the root of modern risk theory. The wager is described inThe Pensées, put together from his notes in 1669.

Blaise Pascal - Wikipedia
Pascal in Religion

Return to People

last updated 23 Aug 2009