Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

                      The main characters                   
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) Jean Rey (1582-ca. 1645)

Blaise Pascal

Tables on the effects of air-pressure.
Blaise Pascal, Traitez de l'equilibre des liqueurs, et de la pesanteur de la masse de l'air, Paris 1663


Born at Clermont-Ferrand, he was introduced early on by his father to the disciplines of mathematics and physics, in which immediately showed great talent, so much so that in 1632, aged sixteen, he published his original Essai pour les coniques. He moved to Paris in 1631, and was able to frequent the intellectual coterie of Mersenne, there the most pressing scientific and philosophical questions were under discussion.
From 1644 he also showed an interest in the technological aspects of scientific research, devising a calculating machine, capable of computing additions and subtractions. In 1646, he was occupied with research on the vacuum, and fluid dynamics. He dedicated two remarkable books to fluids, called the Èquilibre des liqueurs and the De la pesanteur de la masse d’air, written between 1651 and 1654, but published only in 1663. Between 1653 and 1654 he addressed some brief but extremely important tracts on combinatory calculus, infinitesimal calculus and probability. In addition to these scientific interests, Pascal was constantly, and deeply occupied by religious and moral problems. From his youth, he adhered to Jansenism, and frequented the Port-Royal group. These meetings gave rise to the Lettres provinciales (1656-57) and the Pensées (published posthumously in 1670).
Pascal repeated Evangelista Torricelli's experiment, using various liquids and containers of different forms and sizes. This research, in addition to the publication of the Expériences nouvelles touchant le vide culminated in the famous experiment performed in 1648 on Puy-de-Dôme, in which he demonstrated that atmospheric pressure lessens with an increase in altitude.





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