Pascal, le Cœur et la Raison

17th - Century Genius on Show

January 11, 2017By Nick HammondArchive, Exhibitions
Portrait of Pascal (1677-81) by Jean Domat.

“Pascal, le Cœur et la Raison,” at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (François Mitterrand), may not be the sexiest exhibition currently on show in Paris, but it is definitely worth visiting before it closes on Jan. 29. Devoted to the mathematician, scientist, polemicist and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-62), this intelligently curated display covers all aspects of this remarkable man’s life and is dominated, as one might expect, by books and manuscripts. As a specialist in Pascal, I was particularly thrilled to see the original manuscript of his unfinished masterpiece, the Pensées, but there is also a wealth of other material, including portraits, paintings, etchings on religious subjects by Rembrandt (somewhat irrelevantly), brilliant interactive exhibits and one of the actual calculating machines invented by Pascal,

together with a fascinating video demonstration of how the machine works. Unfortunately, the exhibition caters only to French speakers; anglophones with little or no French will struggle with it. The show’s catalogue, by the way, is excellent.

The “Pascaline” calculating machine.

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