19 Sep, 2013 510 Mathematics

Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, after which he devoted most of his attention to philosophy and theology. Although he died in his late thirties, Pascal left a formidable legacy as a scientist and pioneer of probability theory, and as one of seventeenth century Europe’s greatest writers.

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  • David Wootton 16 episodes
    Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York
  • Michael Moriarty No other episodes
    Drapers Professor of French at the University of Cambridge
  • Michela Massimi 4 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh

Reading list

  • Blaise Pascal: Mathematician, Physicist and Thinker about God
    Donald Adamson (Palgrave Macmillan, 1994) Google Books →
  • Pascal: 'Pensees', Critical Guides to French Texts
    John Cruickshank (Grant & Cutler, 1998) Google Books →
  • The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter that Made the World Modern
    Keith Devlin (Basic Books, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to Pascal
    Nicholas Hammond (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • Pascal (Past Masters)
    A. J. Krailsheimer (Oxford University Press, 1980) Google Books →
  • Pensees
    Blaise Pascal (trans. A. J. Krailsheimer) (Penguin Classics, 1995) Google Books →
  • Designing Experiments and Games of Chance: The Unconventional Science of Blaise Pascal
    William Shea (Science History Publications, 2008) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b03b2v6m

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Auto-category: 510.92 (Biography of mathematicians and scientists)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The first practical calculating machine was invented in 1642 by the 19-year-old son of a tax inspector who wanted to find a way to make his father's job easier.