AFTER Rene Descartes, France was gifted with another brilliant mind: Blaise Pascal. Born on June 19, 1629 to wealthy parents, the young Blaise exhibited an exceptionally bright mind -- he invented the “Pascaline,” a prototype of today’s calculator, in order to help his father.
Delicate health forced him to tutoring at home. Despite lacking formal teaching, the young Pascal taught himself mathematics, Greek and Latin. The young genius also devised a perpetual motion machine.
It was in religion and philosophy where Blaise Pascal excelled as shown in his work, Pensees. He fought the Jesuits for their flippant “casuistry,” wrote critically against the established Church especially when he fell under the influence of an extra-conservative religious faction of Port-Royal. Their leader was a heretical Dutch bishop, Cornelius Jansen, who preached only the good and pure will be saved.
Against those who still doubt God’s existence, Pascal formulated his famous “Pascal’s Wager.” He challenged atheists saying: “Either God exists or does not exist. If you bet that God does not exist, but find out in the afterlife that He does, then you lose everything. If I bet that God exists and He does not, then I lose but little; but if He exists, then I win everything—the highest prize there is!”
In the last years of his life, Pascal proved impossible to live with. His only sister had become a nun, so he lived in the ancestral home like a hermit. A filthy one at that.
Shortly after his death, people who entered his house discovered his body on the floor. Upon examination they found in his coat’s pocket a piece of paper in which was written: “I believe in the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Requiescat in pace.