JohnnyGoodyear's latest, Definitive 20th Century Novel, mentions a slip of paper sewn into the lining of a coat. It triggered an association to a quote I read many years ago. It's found in the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, a book I love to an unreasonable extent, because every page seems to have a life-altering quote. This is the sort of desert island book you'd need to get through an apocalyptic time, along with the Oxford Book of English Verse, a good book on quantum mechanics, one on abstract algebra, and perhaps a survival book.

Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician par excellence, but he was so much more: naturalist (an early version of gentleman physicist), inventor of a mechanical calculator, philosopher, man of letters, and after his father's death in 1651, a born-again Christian.

His conversion experience in 1654 was a profound one. It was during this time he probably penned the few words I remember so well:

"FEU. Dieu d'Abraham. Dieu d'Isaac. Dieu de Jacob. Non des philosophes et savants. Certitude. Certitude. Sentiment. Joie. Paix."

which means

FIRE. God of Abraham. God of Isaac. God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars. Certainty. Certainty. Feeling. Joy. Peace.

The ODQ notes: "On a paper dated 23. Nov. 1654. stitched into the lining of Blaise Pascal's coat and found after his death."

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd Edition. ©1979, Oxford University Press. -- A most excellent book. I cannot recommend this particular edition highly enough. If you happen to see it at a used book store you should immediately make plans to purchase it and add it to your writing library. has a nice mathematically oriented biography of Pascal.