Blaise Pascal was born on June 19, 1623 and made huge contributions to the field of mathematics during his lifetime. In addition to being a mathematician, Pascal was also a physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher. His most well known and perhaps most respected contribution is his invention of the calculator. However, he devoted his life to conducting research in many different fields and to improving each of his areas of interest in some way.
Among the many mathematical achievements of Blaise Pascal, one of the most important was the invention of what is now known as Pascal’s Triangle. However, this invention began with his 1653 publication of the “Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle.” In this work, Pascal put forth a theory of creating a “triangle” that would easily showcase binomial coefficients, making them available at a glance for scholars or mathematicians. The numbers that appear in the triangle are defined by recursion, and the theory is proven to hold true years later.
Blaise Pascal is also responsible for the creation of the theory of probability. He began his research in this area in 1654, thanks to the questionings of a friend who liked to gamble and wanted to increase his chances of winning. The theory Pascal used to determine the answer to this question was known as Pascal’s Wager. While the technique is not widely used today, Pascal is still credited with being the father of probability theories and his works are thought to have inspired many other mathematicians who did work and research in related areas.
In 1654, Pascal experienced some kind of a “spiritual awakening.” Almost immediately, he stopped studying mathematics and devoted himself to philosophy and religious pursuits. His interest in the mathematical field, however, did not totally die. In 1658, he offered an award to anyone who could come up with the quadrature of a cycloid. When none of the answers that came in were satisfactory, Pascal published the answer himself, using a false name. So, yes, Pascal was quite the interesting figure. No matter what one thinks about him personally, however, there is no denying the fact that he made significant and respectable contributions to the field of mathematics. It is perhaps even fair to say that he is the most important mathematician the world has ever had, since few people have made such important discoveries since him. To honor his contributions and his name, there are many different important mathematical and/or scientific theories or practices named after him. Pascal, for example, is an SI unit of pressure, and Pascal’s Law is a principle of hydrostatics. Obviously, the world will never forget his very important work, and math would not be what it is today.