Cover image for Designing experiments & games of chance : the unconventional science of Blaise Pascal
Designing experiments & games of chance : the unconventional science of Blaise Pascal
Shea, William R.
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Publication Information:
Canton, Mass. : Science History Publications, [2003]

Physical Description:
354 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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QA271 .S58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Author Notes

William R. Shea graduated from the University of Cambridge. He taught at the University of Ottawa, McGill University, and the University of Strasbourg before joining the faculty at the University of Padua in 2003. He is the author, co-author or editor of over 30 books including Galileo's Intellectual Revolution and The Magic of Numbers and Motion: The Scientific Career of René Descartes. His book Designing Experiments and Games of Chance: The Unconventional Science of Blaise Pascal won the Library Association Award as one of the outstanding academic books of 2003.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In 1631 Galileo Galilei observed that a suction pump could not lift water from a depth of more than "18 braccia," about 10.5 meters. The ensuing, often heated, debate to explain this curiosity, among the adherents of the Archimedean mechanical tradition, of Scholasticism, and of the Archimedean organic philosophy, is the main focus of this extraordinary book. At its center stands Blaise Pascal, whose revolutionary experiments led him from a tentative dismissal of nature's "horror of the vacuum" to the certainty of his explanation--atmospheric pressure. Shea narrates the events, experiments, letters, challenges, and accusations with such ease that the reader is drawn into the time and place of their occurrence. All diagrams and sketches are copies of the protagonists' originals--embedding the reader even deeper in the past. The narratives of Pascal's intellectual battles with the Jesuit E. Noel, with Rene Descartes, and other antagonists are models of clarity. A deep discussion of the Pensees, and lucid expositions of Pascal's Triangle, of the uses to which he put it and, lastly, of his seminal work in probability, round out this book. Abundant footnotes; complete bibliography; detailed index. A truly exceptional, scholarly book. ^BSumming Up: Essential. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. J. Mayer emeritus, Lebanon Valley College

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Chapter 1 A Precocious Geniusp. 1
Chapter 2 Filling the Void: From Galileo to Torricellip. 17
Chapter 3 Creating Emptiness: Pascal's Ingenious Methodsp. 41
Chapter 4 The Battle of the Void: The Jesuits Against Pascalp. 65
Chapter 5 The Great Experiment on a Mountain in Francep. 99
Chapter 6 Why Pumps Work: The Treatise on the Equilibrium of Liquidsp. 129
Chapter 7 Submerged in a Sea of Air: The Treatise on the Weight of the Mass of Airp. 155
Chapter 8 Pascal on the Advancement of Learning in Science and Religionp. 187
Chapter 9 The Use of Logic and the Role of Experimentsp. 209
Chapter 10 The Marvelous Arithmetical Trianglep. 241
Chapter 11 Mastering Games of Chancep. 257
Chapter 12 Putting the Arithmetical Triangle to Workp. 291
Chapter 13 The Brilliance and Pride of a Gambler and a Mathematicianp. 313
Conclusionp. 333
Selected Bibliographyp. 341
Indexp. 347