French Mathematician Blaise Pascal did much to set in motion what is known today as modern mathematics. An unusually creative mathematician, he developed a number of theorems and mathematical structures, including the beginnings of probability theory and a more sophisticated understanding of the geometry of conic structures. At the age of 16, Pascal wrote a brilliant paper on conics; the paper consisted of one single printed page on which he states his major theorem - the opposite sides of any hexagon inscribed in a cone intersect in a straight line. This theorem led Pascal to develop several hundred related theorems in geometry. Pascal's activities, however, were not confined to pure mathematics. When he was about 19 years old, he built a calculating machine that he demonstrated to the king of France. It worked well enough to allow him to build and sell about 50 of them over a few years' time. His work on problems in atmospheric pressure eventually resulted in an early version of the gas law. At the age of 25, Pascal entered a Jansenist monastery to begin an ascetic life of study and argument. However, he continued his mathematical work. With Pierre de Fermat, Pascal laid the foundation for the theory of probability. In 1654, Pascal's friend, the Chevelier de Mere, had asked him to analyze a problem arising from a game of chance. Pascal in turn exchanged a number of letters with Fermat about the problem. This correspondence became the starting point for a theory of probability. However, neither published the ideas developed in the correspondence. The letters did inspire one of Pascal's contemporaries, Christian Huygens of Holland, to publish in 1657 a short tract on the mathematics of games involving dice. Pascal's name is now attached to "Pascals' Triangle" of binomial coefficients which plays and important role in the study combinations and probability. The triangle was known at least 600 years before Pascal became interested in it, but because of his contributions to its study, the triangle eventually became associated with his name. A sensitive and temperamental man, Pascal was obsessed with religious philosophy, a subject on which he wrote extensively. In his general philosophy he was very much taken with the concept of the infinite, which unsettled him and inspired in him a sense of awe. Over a period of years, he wrote on many religious, philosophical, and mathematical subjects. His notes and letters were edited and published posthumously as his Pensees.
Jim Houston (M.A., Edinburgh; D.Phil., Oxford) is founding principal, former chancellor, and emeritus professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is the author of some forty books, including I Believe in the Creator, The Transforming Friendship, In Search of Happiness, The Heart's Desire and The Mentored Life.
Os Guinness (DPhil, Oxford) is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including Renaissance, The Global Public Square, A Free People's Suicide, Unspeakable, The Call, Time for Truth and The Case for Civility. A frequent speaker and prominent social critic, he has addressed audiences worldwide from the British House of Commons to the U.S. Congress to the St. Petersburg Parliament. He founded the Trinity Forum and served as senior fellow there for fifteen years.Born in China to missionary parents, he is the great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer. After witnessing the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to England where he was educated and served as a freelance reporter with the BBC. Since coming to the U.S. in 1984, he has been a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter, celebrating the First Amendment, and has also been senior fellow at the EastWest Institute in New York, where he drafted the Charter for Religious Freedom. He also co-authored the public school curriculum Living With Our Deepest Differences.Guinness has had a lifelong passion to make sense of our extraordinary modern world and to stand between the worlds of scholarship and ordinary life, helping each to understand the other--particularly when advanced modern life touches on the profound issues of faith. He lives with his wife Jenny in McLean, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.