Blaise Pascal Gets Taken for a Ride

At first glance, mathematician Blaise Pascal and Ralph Kramden have little in common. But if it wasn’t for Blaise, Ralph wouldn’t have had a job on The Honeymooners all those years.

Pascal was a Renaissance man from Clermont-Ferrand, France. Born in 1623, he created early calculating machines, mathematical theories, and was a renowned physical scientist (Pascal’s law). In 1662, he convinced a group of noblemen to finance a transportation service that could be used to travel to preset destinations in Paris. To seal the deal, he got the Sun King, Louis XIV, to grant his venture a royal monopoly.

This five-penny transit system started with seven horse-drawn voitures, or carriages, running along regular routes. Each coach could carry six to eight passengers. Pascal’s new public transit vehicles would become known as omnibuses, from the Latin phrase Justitia Omnibus, meaning “justice for all.” In Pascal’s world transportation for all meant only for the nobility. Pascal’s bus routes lived on for a dozen years after his death.

Pascal’s idea was before its time. By the early 19th century, omnibus systems sprang up in London, Paris, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Despite concerns that mixing classes of people would cause social problems, almost anyone who was white could pay their way onto an omnibus. As Ralph would say many years later while driving for the Gotham Bus Company, “et c’est parti”Away we go!

You can read more about Blaise in America's First Freedom Rider by clicking below.

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