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Pascal, Etienne

1. Dates
Born: Clermont-Ferrand, 2 May 1588
Died: Paris, 24 September 1651
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
Pascal's ancestors were rich merchants that reached the highest ranks of the burgess class. His father, Martin Pascal was the receiver general of taxes at Clermont. He became secretary to the Queen. In 1586, Martin was granted the post of conseiller to the King, Treasurer of France, and General of the King's Finances in the Generality of Riom. He married Marguerite Pascal de Mons forming an alliance with another family of Pascal (of noble standing) and ensuring his children hereditary nobility.
The statement about rich merchants seems clear enough-- wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Paris, LD
He was sent to Paris to study law, and upon completion of his degree (1610), he returned to Clermont.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Subordinate: Physics
Pascal gained a reputation as a talented mathematician and musician. In 1637 he introduced a special curve (limacon of M. Pascal), the conchoid of a circle with respect to one of its points, to be applied to the problem of trisecting an angle.
From 1646-8, Pascal participated in the barometric experiments conducted by his son, P. Petit, and probably his son-in-law. He also participated in the debate that followed with P. Noel concerning the existence of a vacuum.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Personal Means
After completing his degree in law, Pascal returned to Clermont were he bought the post as elected counsellor for Bas-Auvergne. In 1625 his capacity and wealth led him to be chosen president of the Cour des Aides.
In 1631 he settled in Paris to raise his children and devoted himself to the education of his son. Three years later he was selected by Cardinal Richelieu as one of five commissioners named to examine M. Morin's invention for the determination of longitudes.
From 1639-1648 he held the post of intendant of the province of Rouen.
In 1645 the court conferred on him the appointment of counsellor of state.
8. Patronage
Types: Government Official, Court Official
Cardinal Richelieu (whom I categorize here as a governmental official) appointed Pascal to his postions as a commissioner in 1634 and as an intendant in 1639. The court appointed him counsellor of state.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Navigation
I list here his work on the commission to examine Morin's method of determining longitude.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
As early as 1635 Pascal frequented the Mersenne academy. Among his contacts were Roberval, Desargues, and Mydorge. Mersenne dedicated one of his works in his Harmonie universelle to Pascal. Roberval shared his mathematical research with Pascal, as did Desargues.
Pascal frequented the salon of Madame Sainctoti where he rediscovered his friend Jacques Pailleur who directed the Mersenne academy after 1648.
Sources
  1. L. Brunschvig, P. Boutroux, eds., Oeuvres de Blaise Pascal, 1, (Paris, 1923). B1900.A3B8 vol.1 J. Mesnard, Pascal, his Life and Works, trans. G.S. Fraser, (London, 1952). B1903.M52
  2. Edouard Morot-Sir, Pascal, (Paris, 1973). B1903.M627
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
Last updated
 
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