Published with Permission
Written by Katharine Trauger
A short life of almost constant pain . . . educated entirely at home in post-Bourbon France . . . who was this famous home scholar?
Throughout history, men have lost young wives.
This is the case for you, Étienne, as you realize you must somehow manage to raise your small children after their beloved mother dies.
Your own dad was Treasurer of France and you need no money. During this dangerous time in French history, you do desire the protection you believe comes from holding high office, and you put your law degree to good use. Your short marriage to Antoinette Bégon gives you two daughters and a son. She dies when the youngest is a year old.
From the start, you hire a governess, Louise, whose devotion wins the children’s love. She rears them as her own and imparts womanly grace and skills to your daughters, Gilberte and Jacqueline.
Your poor son, though, suffers almost constant pain from unknown causes. You devote yourself to your children’s education, and quit your positions in the birthplace of your family, moving to Paris and its academia when your son is seven.
Your affinity for sciences and math, proficiency in several languages, and skill in poetry make you an excellent teacher. You receive appointment as judge over the scientific community, which resounds with discussion and debate of telescopes, gravity, and a helio-centric solar system. In this position, you make familiar acquaintances with many at the front of scientific discovery. You even do some research, experimentation, and discovery, yourself.
When checking your son’s studies one day, you discover diagrams of highly advanced mathematical ideas sketched in the margins of his Greek homework.
As a home-educating dad, you have the privilege to re-design your son’s coursework, and his life as a student without barriers begins.
When your son is fifteen, you lose substantial funds to broken government promises. Although your record as a loyal citizen is without reproach, your protest of this loss earns you assignment to the Bastille and you must flee for your life. How you must think of your children and your responsibilities to them!
Your poet/actress daughter, Jacqueline, however, performs so well that she gains an audience with Cardinal Richelieu, where she pleads for and wins your pardon.
At age sixteen, your son writes an essay on his discoveries in conical sections, theories still in use today. The following year, your son publishes an entire work, Conical Essays, which summarizes his first discovery and explains over 400 corollaries to it.
Delving into calculus and the cycloid, he takes up where Galileo, Descartes, and others have exhausted their skills, and publishes solutions to several problems related to gravity. With seeming unlimited math skill, he tackles theories of probability, corresponding extensively with Pierre de Fermat.
Your re-appointment to government position as a chief tax officer requires your moving to Normandy when your son is nineteen. There, your family enjoys the company of Pierre Corneille, one of the most famous playwrights of France. Your older daughter, Gilberte, marries a fellow-scientist, Florin Pierre.
Your new job is so demanding, you hardly have time to write Gilberte. Your postscripts to letters your son writes to her merely explain about being up until 2:00 a.m. most nights.
Your son’s increasingly diligent studies, as he emulates you, damage his already weak health and he begins experiencing partial paralysis.
Are you neglecting him? Do the doctors not know or simply refuse to tell you what is wrong? Would a real mother know better? Surely, these questions fight for your attention, too.
You receive your young son’s first invention with great joy: a mechanical adding machine. With the efficiency this device creates, you can apply more time to tackling unrest among disgruntled taxpayers who face poor crops and the plague.
Your superiors notice the improvements in public relations in your area.
Your son and Jacqueline move back to Paris when he is twenty-three, and you soon join them. That winter, you fall on ice injuring your leg, and requiring expert help with your recovery. The bone specialists who attend you are Christians and win your heart to the Lord. Your son, his life still filled with unaccountable pain, also experiences rousing conviction from their witness.
Your son’s health being precarious, he receives a visit from René Descartes, who tells him to stay in bed as long as he can and to take plenty of beef tea. Your son does attend church with Jacqueline, and is noticed in society as having been with a certain “belle savante.”
Aided by Florin, your son begins experimentation with air pressure, causing many to believe the value of scientific empiricism. Your son spends much time in society for the next four years. At this time he has a heart-awakening when run-away horses, bring him very near death, an occurrence which gives him many nightmares, and which draws him closer to thoughts of God.
You retire at this time and spend several years working with your son on scientific experimentation. Your son’s thoughts now have turned to religion, seasoned also with constant exposure to the ever-expanding and ever-more-logical scientific world. He writes volumes of thoughts to Jacqueline, who also wants to join Christ.
By age thirty-seven, he reconstructs his purpose, beginning a life of simplicity and charity. For a while, this seems to improve his health. He spends this time writing popular, successful, public defenses of Christianity in the form of eighteen “Provincial Letters.”
By his thirty-ninth birthday, he is ill with such head pain that he needs professional care. Since he has given his own property away, he must live for a while in Jacqueline’s house. His physicians are so puzzled about his condition, they do not realize the gravity of his illness. In two months, he dies.
Q: Who is your famous home-schooled son?
Answer: Blaise Pascal, one of the world’s most comprehensive geniuses, author of the book Pensees (published posthumously). formulator of Pascal’s theorem, author of Essay on Conics, verifier of the hypotheses of Torricelli and Fermat, inventor of a mechanical adding machine, and home scholar.
Another question: What popular toy uses a curve design that compares to the Limaçon of Pascal, invented by Blaise Pascal’s dad, Étienne Pascal?
A: The Spirograph.®