Pascal's triangle

History of Pascal's Triangle

Pascal's triangle is named after Blaise Pascal who was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. He discovered Pascal's triangle in 1655, but there had been some mathematician who discovered the same kind of triangle in the history of mathematics.
The oldest treatise on Pascal's triangle was "Meru-prastaara" by a Indian mathematician Pingala around 2th century BC. In the 13th century, a Chinese mathematician Yang Hui (1238–1298) presented the triangle and hence it is still called Yang Hui's triangle in China.

Pascal as Child Prodigy

Blaise Pascal was not only a great scientist, but also a deep religious thinker who wrote many books on religion. He was born in France. He was a child prodigy, and he wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of 16. He alos did some pioneering work on calculating machines. After three years of effort he built 20 finished machines. He was a great scientist when he was almost the same age as we are. His "Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle" of 1653 presented Pascal's triangle.

Pascal as a religious thinker

He identified with the religious movement within Catholicism known as Jansenism, but Jansenism was denounced by Catholic church.  He lived in a monastery, and wrote many books on Christianity and Jansenism, but the conflict between Jansenism and the Catholic church tormented him very much. Gradually his health deteriorated, and he died young at the age of 39.

Pascal's "Pensées "

His posthumous writings were found, and these writings were gathered to be a book "Pensées". We quote one of the most famous his saying.

"Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature; but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing of this."

What a eloquent saying of a great scientist and a deep religious thinker!

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© 2017 Kwansei Gakuin High School Math. Science Club