(June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662)
Blaise Pascal was a child prodigy with extraordinary flair for mathematics. He gained attention while still a young teen, by propounding his famous Pascal’s Theorem, which he subsequently proved. His obsession with calculative algorithms saw him devising mechanical calculators before his 20th birthday. Although Wilhelm Schickard produced the first prototypes a few years before Pascal was born, his designs were cumbersome and had very limited uses. Thus, he never revived the project. By circumventing the Schickard’s problems in his own gadgets, Pascal earned recognition as one of the inventors of what would become the forerunner of modern calculators and computers. With interests in theology, philosophy and science, Pascal exchanged ideas with some of the greatest minds of his era: corresponding with Pierre de Fermat on the issues of Probability Theory and Geometric Transformations. Their excellent working relationship incurred the wrath of an envious René Descartes, who made sardonic remarks about them. Notwithstanding, Paul Dirac would use the basis of this Projective Geometry (more than 250 years after Pascal’s death) to develop the concepts of Quantum Mechanics which won him recognition. Pascal’s extensive works on hydrodynamics and vacuums also led him to invent the hydraulic press and the syringe, both of which are still widely used. His math treatises (such as the acclaimed De L’Esprit Géométrique and Traité du Triangle Arithmétique) nurtured Christiaan Huygens’ career. And when a young Gottfried Leibniz wanted to delve deeper into mathematics, his then tutor Huygens (who venerated Pascal’s brilliance) recommended Pascal’s publications for him.