Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal. Portrait: anonymousBlaise Pascal (1623-1662) was one of the greatest early philosophers and mathematicians and is considered the father of the science of hydrostatics and one of the founders of hydrodynamics. In mathematics, he laid the foundation for the modern treatment of conic sections, as well as differential calculus and the mathematical theory of probability. His other scientific and mathematical contributions were legion, including the development of the barometer.

He is equally famous, however, for his religious contributions, his best-known work being his Pensées. He was a deeply spiritual man, a leader of the sect known as the Jansenists, a Calvinistic quasi-Protestant group within the Catholic Church. To him is attributed the famous Wager of Pascal, paraphrased as follows:

How can anyone lose who chooses to become a Christian? If, when he dies, there turns out to be no God and his faith was in vain, he has lost nothing—in fact, he has been happier in life than his nonbelieving friends, If, however, there is a God and a heaven and hell, then he has gained heaven and his skeptical friends will have lost everything in hell!

Excerpted from Men of Science, Men of God by Henry M. Morris. Copyright 1982, 1985 by Henry M. Morris. Used by permission.

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