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Authors: James A. Connor

Pascal's Wager

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Pascal’s Wager

The Man Who Played Dice with God

James A. Connor

Contents

Introduction:
The Man Who Played Dice with God

1625:
The Witch

1626–1631:
A Dangerous World

1631–1635:
A Thinking Reed

1635:
Blaise Among the Geometers

1585–1642:
Un Bâtard Magnifique

1631–1638:
Madame Sainctot’s Salon

The 1640s:
Le Libertin Érudit

1638:
Charming the Cardinal

1639–1640:
Conic Sections

1642:
The Arithmetic Machine

1638:
The Jansenists

1614–1646:
The Void

1646:
Étienne Breaks His Hip

1647–1652:
Jacqueline’s Vocation

September 19, 1648:
The Great Experiment

1647:
A Skirmish with the Devil

1608:
Port-Royal and the Clan Arnauld

1643:
The Great Arnauld

1643, 1648–1653:
The Fronde of the Parlement

1648–1654:
Adrift in the World

1652:
The Feud

1653–1654:
The Gambler’s Ruin

1654:
Letters to Fermat

1654:
The Night of Fire

1656:
So Jolly a Penitent

1655–1661:
The Jesuit Menace

1656–1657:
The Jesuit Menace, Part 2

1656:
The Miracle of the Holy Thorn

1658–1662:
Pascal’s Wager

1660–1662:
Port-Royal Agonistes

1658–1662:
May God Never Abandon Me

 

Epilogue:
Oracles, Dicing, and Schrödinger’s Cat

 

1588

PASCAL

Birth of Étienne Pascal, father of Blaise Pascal, in Clermont, in the Auvergne region.

FRANCE

May 12: Day of Barricades in Paris. Duc de Guise seizes the city.
July: Henry III capitulates to the duc de Guise.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Spanish Armada nearly succeeds.

1605

PASCAL

FRANCE

Huguenot refugees resettle in Netherlands, Ireland.
Don Quixote
is published.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

James River colony founded in Virginia.
Czar Boris Godunov dies.
Paul V becomes pope.

1616

PASCAL

(?) Étienne Pascal marries Antoinette Begon.

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Pocahontas arrives in England.
Copernicus’s
De revolutionibus
is placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.

1617

PASCAL

Birth of Anthonia Pascal, who dies days after her baptism.

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Saint Rose of Lima dies in Peru.
Pocahontas dies.

1619

PASCAL

Étienne Pascal buys Langhac mansion, near the abbey in Clermont.

FRANCE

Cyrano de Bergerac is born. Jean-Baptiste Colbert is born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Jamestown, Virginia, creates the first representative assembly in the Americas.
Slaves first brought to the colonies.

1620

PASCAL

Birth of Gilberte Pascal, who marries her cousin Florin Perier.

FRANCE

Jean Picard, French astronomer, is born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Plymouth colonists set out from England.
Witchcraft trials begin in Scotland.
Francis Bacon publishes the
Novum organum
.
Bonesetting becomes a science.
Thirty Years’ War begins in Prague.

1623

PASCAL

June 19: Blaise Pascal born in Clermont, the son of Étienne Pascal, a minor noble and government official, and Antoinette Pascal, née Begon.

FRANCE

Erotomania first mentioned as a mental illness. Phillipe de Mornay dies.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

August 6: Urban VIII Barberini elected pope. Would order the trial of Galileo.
Wilhelm Schickard invents the calculating clock, a first attempt at a computer.

1624

PASCAL

FRANCE

Cardinal Richelieu becomes first minister of France.
Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac publishes his
Lettres
.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

George Fox, founder of the Quakers, is born in England.
War between England and Spain.
Mail service begins in Denmark.
Saint Rosalio makes a miraculous appearance at a plague in Sicily.

1624–1634

PASCAL

FRANCE

Richelieu builds the Palais-Royal in Versailles.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Cornelius Drebbel discovers gases.

1625

PASCAL

Birth of Jacqueline Pascal.

FRANCE

Henrietta Maria, princess of France and Navarre, marries Charles I of England.
Thomas Corneille is born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

James I of England dies.

1626

PASCAL

Antoinette Pascal dies.

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Saint Peter’s Basilica is consecrated.
Charles I dissolves Parliament.
The Dutch settle Manhattan.

1627

PASCAL

FRANCE

Richelieu sets out to establish the supremacy of the crown.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

The aurochs are hunted to extinction, with the last one killed in Poland.

1628
1628

PASCAL

FRANCE

Richelieu defeats the rebellious Huguenots.
Richelieu founds the Académie Française.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1630

PASCAL

FRANCE

Day of Dupes.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1631

PASCAL

Étienne moves to Paris and directs his children’s education based on the pedagogy of Montaigne. Blaise proves to be exceptional at mathematics.

FRANCE

The bell “Emmanuelle” in Notre Dame Cathedral is recast.
René Le Bossu, French critic, born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Imperial troops massacre about twenty thousand people in the city of Magdeburg.

1633

PASCAL

FRANCE

Saint-Cyran appointed father confessor to the nuns at Port-Royal de Paris by Mother Superior Angélique Arnauld.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Trial of Galileo in Rome.
Samuel de Champlain, at the behest of Cardinal Richelieu, reclaims his role as commander of New France.

1635

PASCAL

Young Blaise revealed as a mathematical prodigy.

FRANCE

The Académie Française of Paris expands to become a national art society.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1636

PASCAL

FRANCE

First performance of Pierre Corneille’s play
Le Cid
.
Jacques Marquette, French Jesuit and explorer, born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Harvard College founded in the English colony of Massachusetts.
The first ancestors of John Adams migrate to America.
Roger Williams founds Rhode Island.

1637

PASCAL

FRANCE

René Descartes publishes the
Discourse on Method
.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1638

PASCAL

Étienne goes into hiding after opposing a fiscal measure of Richelieu’s, but leaves the children in Paris.

FRANCE

Louis XIV is born.
Richelieu has Duvergier de Hauranne, the abbé de Saint-Cyran, imprisoned at Vincennes for the disruption of the peace of the church. The solitaries at Port-Royal move out to the old monastery at Port-Royal des Champs. The nuns remain in Paris.
Cornelis Jansen dies.
The French admiral d’Estrées runs his entire fleet aground in Curaçao.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Dutch settle in Ceylon.
Maria Theresa of Spain, future wife of Louis XIV, born in Madrid.

1639

PASCAL

Blaise’s sister Jacqueline appears in a play before Richelieu, after which he not only pardons Étienne but appoints him tax collector at Rouen.

FRANCE

Jean Racine, French dramatist and Jansenist, born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Connecticut’s first constitution, “The Fundamental Orders,” is adopted.
First printing house in the United States is founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Montreal settled.

1640

PASCAL

Pascal family moves to Rouen. Blaise publishes his short work
Essay on Conic Sections
. Essay later discussed by Leibniz.

FRANCE

Posthumous publication of Jansen’s
Augustinus
.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

First book, the Bay Psalm book, printed in America.

1641

PASCAL

Gilberte Pascal marries Florin Perier.

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1642

PASCAL

Birth of Étienne Perier, who will later confirm the genuineness of Pascal’s
Memorial
. Blaise begins to work on his calculating machine, the Pascaline, to assist his father in computing taxes.

FRANCE

Cardinal Richelieu dies.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1642 to 1651: English Civil War between Cavaliers and Roundheads.
The Puritans close all theaters in England.
Galileo Galilei dies.

1643

PASCAL

Blaise continues work on the Pascaline.

FRANCE

Louis XIII dies. Anne of Austria becomes regent.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Antoine Arnauld publishes
De la fréquente communion
.

1644

PASCAL

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Torricelli conducts his experiments on the vacuum.

1645

PASCAL

Letter to the Chancellor
, dedicating the calculating machine.

FRANCE

Louis Joliet, French explorer of Canada, born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

English Civil War.

1646

PASCAL

Étienne Pascal and his friend Pierre Petit re-create Torricelli’s experiment on the vacuum. Blaise takes over the experiments.
Étienne is injured and is cared for by two Jansenists who convert the family to this strict form of Christianity.
April 5: Birth of Margaret Perier.
Blaise Pascal begins work on the vacuum.

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

The Westminster Confession of Faith.
Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

1647

PASCAL

Pascal returns to Paris for his health. Jacqueline attends to him. Visits by Descartes on September 23 and 24. Discussion on atmospheric pressure and the function of the barometer.
Controversy with Père Noël the Jesuit plenist and teacher of Descartes over the authority of Aristotle.
Birth of Marie Perier.

FRANCE

Pierre Bayle, French philosopher, born.
Denis Papin, French inventor, born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Death of Torricelli.

1648

PASCAL

Conversations between Blaise Pascal and Monsieur de Rebours at Port-Royal. Much misunderstanding. Pascal returns to Clermont. Writes treatise on conic sections.

FRANCE

Sept. 1: Père Mersenne dies.
Sept. 19: Florin Perier, following Blaise Pascal’s detailed instructions, performs the great experiment on the Puy-de-Dôme. Blaise repeats experiments at the bottom and the top of the St. James tower in Paris, as well as in a tower at Notre Dame. Pascal considers the existence of the vacuum to be proved.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Peace of Westphalia; end of Thirty Years’ War in Germany.

1648–1653

PASCAL

FRANCE

The Fronde of the Parlement. Revolt by the Parlement and nobles against the regency.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1648

PASCAL

FRANCE

May: Chamber of St. Louis in Paris draws up demands for reform.
August: Arrest of Broussel; Parisians rise up against Séguier and the queen.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1649

PASCAL

Pascal family returns to Clermont to avoid the Fronde.

FRANCE

January: Revolt of the Parlement of Aix. The
frondeurs
and the French government sign the Peace of Rueil. Jansen’s
Augustinus
denounced at the Sorbonne.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

January 30: Charles I of England is beheaded.
September 2: The Italian city of Castro is destroyed by the forces of Innocent X.

1650

PASCAL

FRANCE

René Descartes dies in Sweden.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Christopher Scheiner, great Jesuit antagonist of Galileo Galilei, dies.

1651–1653

PASCAL

FRANCE

Rise of the Ormée movement in Bordeaux.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1651

PASCAL

September 24: Death of Étienne Pascal.
September 27: Birth of Louis Perier.
The duc de Roannez appointed governor and lieutenant general of Poitou.

FRANCE

Jean-Baptiste de La Salle born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Thomas Hobbes writes
Leviathan
.
Massachusetts passes laws forbidding poor people from adopting excessive styles of dress.
Maximilian I, elector of Bavaria, dies.

1652

PASCAL

Jacqueline enters the convent at Port-Royal de Paris.
Pascal begins his “worldly” period.
Letter from Pascal to Queen Christina of Sweden.

FRANCE

Michel Rolle, French mathematician, is born.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

Cape Town, South Africa, founded.
Rhode Island passes the first law in the Americas against slavery.
John Cotton, founder of Boston, dies.

1653

PASCAL

Pascal takes journey to Poitou, accompanied by Méré, Mitton, and the duc de Roannez. Pascal writes on the geometrical and intuitive minds.

FRANCE

Jews allowed to return to France and England.
The Fronde ends.

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

February 2: New Amsterdam, later renamed New York City, is incorporated.
Coffeehouses become popular across Europe.

1653

PASCAL

June 3: Five propositions of Jansen found in the
Augustinus
condemned by Pope Innocent X.
June 5: Jacqueline Pascal takes vows at Port-Royal, taking the religious name of Sœur Jacqueline de Sainte-Euphémie.

FRANCE

EUROPE AND THE NEW WORLD

1654

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