Saturday, August 19, 2006

Remembering Pascal

For those of you who don't know, today is the day that philosopher and mathemetician Blaise Pascal died. On this day in 1662, the great genius died. When I say "Remembering Pascal", two things come to mind: Pascal as an individual, and Pascal as a programming language named after him.

As a programmer, my earlier years were mainly spent working with the Pascal language, usually working in the Borland Pascal environment. Pascal was really a good match for me at that time. I was good enough to be somewhat stiffled and insulted by the simplicity and occasional absurdities of the Basic language. However, I wasn't nearly knowledgable enough to master C or Assembly. So, Pascal seemed to be an obvious choice: it was simple enough for me to learn easily, but at the same time it was complex enough for me to see it as a useful tool. Now I probably wouldn't touch Pascal with a 10 foot pole, but I still have some fond memories of it and I believe it helped me learn how to program.

Moving along to Pascal the person, there is much to be remembered. He certainly didn't live very long, maybe at most 40 or so years? He made a lot of contributions, especially to natural sciences, probability, and study of fluids. His name has been attached to a theorem, a programming language, and a unit of measurement.

This is not intended to be a biography, but I would like to list some other interesting things about Pascal that you may have not known:


  • Before Pascal turned 13 he had proven the 32-nd proposition of Euclid and discovered an error in Rene Descartes geometry.

  • He wrote letters against the Jesuits

  • He claims to have had a mystical vision

  • He wrote criticizing the prevailing ethical philosopies of his day

  • He used a lot of satire in his writings

  • He died of a brain hemorrhage

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5 Comments:

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10:58 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

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Thanks for the reminder about Pascal. I would argue that his thinking fits well within a Reformed/presuppositional framework. Evidentialists have sort've claimed him because of his so-called "wager."
Dr. Haykin is currently reading through Pensees with his daughter.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hey, no making fun of Sally. She's clearly my biggest fan :)

11:11 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

She did say your blog was "cool."

2:28 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

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Imagine how productive the great theologians and apologists of history would be if they had to put up with this.

3:11 PM  

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