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Pascal

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PASCAL. ilLAISE, a celebrated mathematician and phi lusimher, born at Clermont, in Auvergne, in the year 1 Ilis father, who was a man of great consideration in his pro vince, was also illustrious as :t general as as an able mathemativian. To promote the studies of his only son, 1Ilaise, he relinquished his official situation, settled at Paris, and it the cmpliiy went. of being his tutor. The pupil was, from a very early period, rein:Ill:ably of knowing the prineiples a things; and when good reasons were not given to him, he would search for better ; nor would he rest contented with any did not appear to his mind well founded. His fittig• soon dis covered that the bent of his genius was decidedly to loathe. inaties, from which he was determined, if possible, to keep him, lest he should, by this pursuit. be prevented fi om learning the Ile accordingly locked op all the books that treated of geometry and the sciences, properly so called, and refrained even from speaking of them in his presence. (hi one occasion, however, the youth asked, with an impor tunity not to be put offi, what was geometry 1 to which the father replied, "geometry is a science which teaches the way of making exact figures, and of finding out the proportions between them ;" but, at the same time, be forbade him to speak or think of the subject any more; which was, perhaps, the cry readiest way to excite in him an earnest desire to become acquainted with it. Accordingly, the science soon all his thoughts ; and though but twelve years of age, he was found, in the hours of recreation, making figures tin the ehandwr-Uoor, with charcoal, the proportions of which be sought out by means of a regular. though perhaps uncouth, series of definitions. axioms, and demonstrations. It is said, apparently Hiroo unquestionable authority, that be had pro ceeded with his inquiries so far as to have eollle to what was just the same with the thirty-second proposition of the first hook of Euclid, and that without any assistance either rod], or the works of the illustrious dead. From this time. young Pascal had full liberty to indulge his genius in mathematical pursuits, and was furnished by his father with Elements, of which he made himself master in a very short time. So great was his proficiency in the sciences,

that, at the age of sixteen, he wrote a Treatise on Conic Sec lions, it lieu', in the judgment of the most learned men of the was as a great effort of genius. At the age of nineteen he contrived his admirable, arithmetical machine, furnishing an easy and expeditious method of making arith metical calculations, in the fundamental rules, without any other aid than that of the eye and the hand. About time, ow ing to ill health, he was obliged to suspend hisst which he \\ as unable to renew for four years; when, having been witness to the fionuus Torricellian experiment respect ing the weight of air, he instantly directed his attention to discoveries in the science of pneumatics. He mode a vast number of experiments, of which he circulated a printed account through the whole of Europe. Ile soon ascertained the filet of the general pressure of the atmosphere, and posed a large treatise, in which he fiffly explained the subject, and answered the olijections which Were against his theory : afterwards, thinking it too prolix. he divided it into two small treatises, (tile of which he entitled, A Disser tation on the Equilibrium of Fluids ; and the other, An Evsuy Olt the it of the Atmosphere These treatises were not published till alter the author's death.

The high reputation which JI. Pascal had acquired, caused him to be looked up to by the most considerable roadie. maticians and philosophers of the age. who applied for his assisja,„., iu the resolution of various difficult questions and problems. Among other subjects on which his was employ cd, \\ as the solution of a problem suggested by Aler,enne, it hi,1 had baffled the penetration of all who had attempted it ; this was to determine the curve described in the air by the nail of a coach-wheel, while the machine was in Inoli"11; which curve was at that time by the name of the runt/elle. but is now designated the cyanid.

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