Math in Computing

Mechanical and Electronic Calculating Devices

What did Blaise Pascal invent
that eventually caused his interest in math to wane?

French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) devised the Pascaline in 1642, when he was only 18 years old; he had it built by 1643. This device was possibly the first mechanical adding machine used for a practical purpose. He built it with his father (a tax collector) in mind to help him with the tedious task of adding and subtracting large sequences of numbers.

But the device was not very helpful for a variety of reasons, especially since it used base 10 and did not match up with divisions of the French currency. Other reasons for its rejection are familiar to every century: The device was much too expensive and unreliable, along with being too difficult to use and manufacture. Eventually, Pascal’s interest in science and mathematics waned. In 1655 he entered a Jansensist convent, studying philosophy until his death.


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