## Pascal’s genius

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16

In Gilberte Pascal’s biography of her famous brother, she claims that, when Blaise was five years old, his father refused to teach him any mathematics save for the statement that the subject was ‘a way of making precise figures and finding the proportions among them’. Gilberte reported that based only on this statement, during his playtime, Blaise drew mathematical figures and developed axioms.

Pascal was frequently unwell, and on one occasion was paralysed from the waist down, and required crutches to walk. He was treated with brandy-soaked stockings.

Pascal made two notable mechanical contributions. He invented an early mechanical calculator which went into production with 50 prototypes produced in 1645. Pascal also launched the first municipal horse-bus system in Paris in 1662. The horse-drawn omnibuses followed a fixed route at regular intervals independent of the number of passengers. The initial fleet consisted of seven coaches that could carry 6-8 passengers and the service was, at first, free to use.

### References

J.R. Cole, Pascal: The Man and His Two Loves, New York, NY, New York University Press, p. 39

W. Casey, Firsts: Origins of Everyday Things That Changed the World, New York, NY, Penguin, 2009, p. 132