“Pascalines in the Road to Rouen”‏

 

“The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men”. Blaise Pascal

“We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves”. Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal’s earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defense of the scientific method.

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much”. Blaise Pascal

Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Rouen Cathedral’ c.1832

In 1642, while still a teenager, he started some pioneering work on calculating machines. After three years of effort and fifty prototypes, he was one of the first two inventors of the mechanical calculator. He built 20 of these machines (called Pascal’s calculators and later Pascalines) in the following ten years.Pascal was an important mathematician, helping create two major new areas of research: he wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of 16, and later corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. Following Galileo and Torricelli, in 1646 he refuted Aristotle’s followers who insisted that nature abhors a vacuum. Pascal’s results caused many disputes before being accepted.

“Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything”. Blaise Pascal

In 1646, he and his sister Jacqueline identified with the religious movement within Catholicism known by its detractors as Jansenism.

Jansenism was a Christian theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination. The movement originated from the posthumously published work of the Dutch theologian Cornelius Jansen, who died in 1638. It was first popularized by Jansen’s friend Jean du Vergier, Abbé de Saint-Cyran, and after du Vergier’s death in 1643, was led by Antoine Arnauld.

Jansenism was opposed by many in the Catholic hierarchy, especially the Jesuits. Although the Jansenists identified themselves only as rigorous followers of Augustine of Hippo’s teachings, Jesuits coined the term “Jansenism” to identify them as having Calvinist affinities. The papal bull Cum occasione, issued by Pope Innocent X in 1653, condemned five cardinal doctrines of Jansenism as heresy—especially the relationship between human free will and efficacious grace, wherein the teachings of Augustine, as presented by the Jansenists, contradicted the teachings of the Jesuit School.

“Faith embraces many truths which seem to contradict each other”. Blaise Pascal

Following a religious experience in late 1654, Pascal began writing influential works on philosophy and theology. His two most famous works date from this period: the Lettres provinciales and the Pensées, the former set in the conflict between Jansenists and Jesuits. In that year, he also wrote an important treatise on the arithmetical triangle. Between 1658 and 1659 he wrote on the cycloid and its use in calculating the volume of solids.

“There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous”. Blaise Pascal

“As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all”. Blaise Pascal

“If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future”. Blaise Pascal

“Two things control men’s nature, instinct and experience” Blaise Pascal

“The charm of fame is so great that we like every object to which it is attached, even death”. Blaise Pascal

Rouen offers the visitor a rich architectural heritage accessible to all in a city where the centre is almost completely pedestrianised. Wander through medieval streets amidst half-timbered houses and buildings, the oldest of which date from the 13th century, or visit one of Rouen’s many architectural jewels. Excellent examples of the gothic style include Rouen’s Notre Dame Cathedral, the abbey church of Saint-Ouen, Saint Maclou church and the Normandy parliament building while the Gros Horloge; the Aître St Maclou or the Hotel de Bourgthéroulde are amongst the finest examples of renaissance buildings in Europe. Apart from the splendour of its architecture, Rouen is renown for many famous historic, literary and artistic characters, including Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc, Pierre Corneille, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant and, of course, Claude Monet.

Referenced to in Puccini’s one-act opera, Il tabarro. In the opera, Luigi asks his boss, the barge owner Michele, to drop him off in Rouen because he is secretly in love with Michele’s wife, Giorgetta and cannot stand to share her with him.

The 2000 film The Taste of Others was filmed and set in Rouen.

“Love has reasons which reason cannot understand”. Blaise Pascal

“She took me down the road to ruin…”

“Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons. Neither the offender nor the offended are any more themselves”. Blaise Pascal

“We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end”. Blaise Pascal

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