French scientist and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was born on this day at Clermont-Ferrand and raised in Paris, the son of the king's counselor.
"I maintain that, if everyone knew what others said about him, there would not be four friends in the world," he once said.
A sickly, but curious child, Pascal experimented in physics. By age 19, he invented and sold the first digital calculator. Called the Pascaline, it resembled a mechanical calculator of the 1940s.
Further studies led to his invention of the barometer, syringe, and hydraulic press. With Pierre de Fermat, Pascal laid the foundation for the theory of probability.
He also explored the ideas of science and religion and said, "If we submit everything to reason, our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural."
After his conversion at age 31, Pascal shared the joy of his Jansenist belief in some of the most powerful words ever written. His most famous work in philosophy is Pensees, an examination of suffering and faith. Pascal's Wager claims to prove that belief in God is rational.
"If God does not exist," he argued, "one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing."
It makes sense to cover Pascal's bet... If we win, we win eternity. If we lose, we lose nothing.
A celebration of spirit and intellect, Pascal said that "man's greatness lies in his power of thought."
A genius, Pascal's meteoric life ended with cancer at 39, but his reflections about God and reason continue to touch the heart.
"Kind words do not cost much," he wrote, "yet they accomplish much."
More Blaise PASCAL Quotations
Let your imagination go.