Blaise Pascal

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  • Topic: Blaise Pascal, Conic section, Mathematics
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  • Published : March 11, 2007
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Blaise Pascal was born at Clermont on June 19, 1623 as the third of four children and the only son to Étienne Pascal. Blaise grew up without a mother, who died when he was only three years old. His father had dissident educational views and decided to educate his son himself, however, Étienne decided that Blaise was not to study mathematics before the age of fifteen. Therefore, he removed all mathematic texts from their house.

Although he was told not to study mathematics, Blaise became curious and began to work on geometry himself at the age of twelve. He discovered that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles. When his father found out, he gave in and allowed Blaise to have a copy of Euclid's Elements, a book written by a Greek mathematician best known for his treatise on geometry. From there, Blaise expanded his knowledge of mathematics and soon began to accompany his father to Mersnne's meetings. Mersenne was known for his work in number theory and was idolized by many scientists and mathematicians. At the age of sixteen, Pascal presented a piece of paper at one of the meetings, which conained a number of projective geometry theorems, including Pascal's mystic hexagon. Many people were amazed.

Blaise showed a very keen interest in mathematics, and went on to publish a highly appreciated treatise called "Essay on Conic Sections." Conic sections deal parabolas, hyperbolas, and an ellipse which can be obtained by intersecting a plane with a double sided cone. Only two copies are known to have been printed, and at the time, his essay attracted little attention. Many people questioned how a sixteen year old could write something that seemed so mature for his age, and believed he had simply read and copied it from someone else. However, Gottfried Leibniz, a German philosopher and mathematician, realized that Pascal had made a remarkable advancement in the study of conics and Girard Desargues, founder of geometry, spoke highly of his...
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