They Took Away His Books

“To understand is to forgive.” 

BlaisePascal

Blaise Pascal

Today, in 1623, Blaise Pascal, a child prodigy, was born in the town Clermont-Ferrand, France.  While his time on earth would be cut short by ill-health, his accomplishments were extraordinary.  His first mathematical treatise was completed by the age of sixteen; by nineteen, he constructed the first calculator – a mechanical device  capable of addition and subtraction. Seven of the twenty calculators that Pascal produced still remain safely guarded within museum walls and collectors’ cabinets.

It has been said that Pascal’s tutors took away his books on mathematics, deciding that classics would be more in keeping with his educational requirements.  Not to be thwarted, Pascal merely took up a charcoal and worked out Euclid’s theorems of geometry on the floor without the help of texts. Pascal was only twelve.  Humbled by his genius, the tutors returned his books and acknowledged his destiny.

“The more I see of Mankind, the more I prefer my dog.” 
Blaise Pascal

35 Comments

  1. billgncs says:

    I love Pascal ( I wonder if the old Pascal programming language bears his name ) – but I stumbled across Penses when I was about twenty. I never went to college, but around 20 or so I read a couple books. He was a tortured soul though… the reformation would have done him good.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      The old Pascal programming language that was developed by Niklaus Wirth (I looked this up) in 1968-1969 was indeed named after our dear Blaise Pascal. I agree – Pascal chose a very difficult journey. In his time, there was a lot of debate within the religious circles. I am no expert, however, on this subject! It is a BIG research project…. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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      1. billgncs says:

        I do hope you read the Penses, although you may have already.

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      2. Clanmother says:

        I just added it to my list! Just purchased it via Amazon for my Kindle!! Thank you!!!

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      3. billgncs says:

        a bit like Montaigne’s essays – but with a religious bent.

        He was a very devout man. And there is Pascal’s wager.

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      4. Clanmother says:

        🙂 You are a wealth of information!!

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      5. billgncs says:

        if only some of it was practical 🙂

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      6. billgncs says:

        I’m enjoying, and learning from your posts too!

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  2. Dina says:

    Great post, dear Rebecca. What a genius, Blaire Pascal was!
    A ♥ hug to you!
    Dina

    “The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” —Alden Nowlan

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Oh, what a wonderful quote – I have just added it to my list of “best of quotes.” Hugs from Canada – heard you had lots of sunshine on your side of the world. We have plenty of liquid sunshine in Vancouver….

      “The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” —Alden Nowlan

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  3. Gallivanta says:

    I saw a mention of Blaise Pascal’s birthday in our newspaper but there was none of this fascinating information. Love your final quote. I will tell it to my dog , Jack 🙂

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    1. Clanmother says:

      And please give your precious Jack a hug from a faraway admirer. He is a handsome fellow. There is a lot more to Blaise Pascal’s story – will need to do another “Narratives of Science” series. 🙂

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      1. Gallivanta says:

        Hug given 🙂

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      2. Clanmother says:

        Thank you! 🙂

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  4. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog, oozing out of every pore!
    Seriously! my favourite quote from Pascal is: ‘Thou wouldst not seek Him if He had not already found you…”

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I got goosebumps! How did you know that was my most favourite of all Pascal quotes? He had a fascinating way of looking at the infinite and divine. Thank you so much for your comments – always appreciated.

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  5. adinparadise says:

    A child prodigy indeed, and I know quite a lot of people who subscribe to that last quote. 🙂

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Oh!! I am so glad that you like that quote about our four-legged friends and fellow travelers! He certainly had a way of speaking truth.

      Pouring liquid sunshine in Vancouver – heading over to your place for some the bright sunshine… 🙂

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  6. Great Post Rebecca !

    Mahatma Gandhi

    “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning. ”

    I think this also applies when others try to tell you your not about to do something, they tried to put young Blaise in a box.

    I think if our own minds are strong enough then you will see that the walls of such a box are only made of words, you still need to be strong to bring these walls down, but once you know they are only words your well on your way!!!

    Great post, Thank you !!

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with your profound thoughts. Thank you again for adding to the conversation.

      We have all experienced the “they took away his books” moment in our lives. This is especially traumatic when we were young and without the strength to advocate for ourselves. But I often wonder how many times I have, inadvertently and with good intentions, been the one to “take away the books.” Sometimes we fear that those that we care for are going the wrong way. Maybe it is a better way…

      “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
      ― Dalai Lama XIV

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      1. Hello Rebecca….

        Very true, we can see single actions and hear simple words but we do not get a lot of the time the bigger plans that people make…..

        This is a wonderful post 🙂

        Many thanks !!!!!!!

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      2. Clanmother says:

        Many thanks to you too, my friend! We have the most excellent discussions. 🙂

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  7. Genius, and not just because of his dog quote (couldn’t help it, you know i”m dog crazy). Don’t ya just love stories like this. Unstoppable souls make hearts soar. Thanks! Hugs,

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Hugs coming right back to you! You always give a lift to my day! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  8. Reblogged this on The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap and commented:
    Oh, I loved this one. Short and amazingly wonderful. And, to Lady Budd’s site: if you like great, terrifically great, historical tidbits, this is the place to hang with the ever lovely AKA clanmother’s alternate site.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      My dear friend!!! Your thoughtful reblog is so much appreciated. Actually, I was thinking of you when I chose the last quote!

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      1. Clanmother says:

        You are the best!!!

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  9. Aww such wonderful insightful words. Don’t always hit home for everyone, but it does me.
    To understand is to forgive. Very nice
    Yisraela

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I am delighted that you stopped by for a visit!! Your heartwarming comments are much appreciated. Blaise Pascal was an extraordinary young man – there is so much to his story!

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  10. Denise Hisey says:

    Sounds like the current suffocation of curiosity and learning by our public schools isn’t anything new. 😉

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    1. Clanmother says:

      Sir Ken Robinson shares your concern! I appreciate his perspective on education, especially as technology transforms our global community. I think that blogging is a transformative power, because of the ease in which we can share and learn from each other.

      “Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. And it’s the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves.”
      ― Ken Robinson

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  11. Ms Frances says:

    What a great conversation, loved each comment. So this is where the “dog quote” comes from. Imagine writing on the floor with charcoal. So glad they gave his books back to him.

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    1. Clanmother says:

      I think they finally figured out he would be better at setting the course of his education! Can you imagine reading “Elements” at 12?!!!

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