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Emmanuel M.

Guiriba Francis Bacon Philosopher 1


Biography

Francis Bacon Biography


Academic, Academic, Lawyer, Scientist
(1561–1626)

Francis Bacon was an English Renaissance


statesman and philosopher, best known for his
promotion of the scientific method.

Who Was Francis Bacon?

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561 in


London, England. Bacon served as attorney
general and Lord Chancellor of England,
resigning amid charges of corruption. His more
Quick Facts valuable work was philosophical. Bacon took up
Aristotelian ideas, arguing for an empirical,
Name inductive approach, known as the scientific
Francis Bacon method, which is the foundation of modern
scientific inquiry.
Occupation
Lawyer, Scientist Early Life
Birth Date Statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon was
January 22, 1561 born in London on January 22, 1561. His father, Sir
Nicolas Bacon, was Lord Keeper of the Seal. His
Death Date mother, Lady Anne Cooke Bacon, was his father's
April 9, 1626 second wife and daughter to Sir Anthony Cooke,
a humanist who was Edward VI's tutor. Francis
Education Bacon’s mother was also the sister-in-law of Lord
Trinity College , Honourable Burghley.
Society of Gray's Inn
The younger of Sir Nicholas and Lady Anne's two
Place of Birth
sons, Francis Bacon began attending Trinity
London, England
College, Cambridge, in April 1573, when he was
12 years old. He completed his course of study at
Place of Death
Trinity in December 1575. The following year,
London, England
Bacon enrolled in a law program at Honourable
AKA Society of Gray's Inn, the school his brother
1st Viscount Saint Alban Anthony attended. Finding the curriculum at
Sir Francis Bacon Gray's Inn stale and old fashioned, Bacon later
called his tutors "men of sharp wits, shut up in their
Full Name cells if a few authors, chiefly Aristotle, their
Francis Bacon dictator." Bacon favored the new Renaissance
Emmanuel M. Guiriba Francis Bacon Philosopher 2
Biography
humanism over Aristotelianism and scholasticism,
Francis Bacon Quotes the more traditional schools of thought in England
at the time.

“Reading maketh a full man; A year after he enrolled at Gray's Inn, Bacon left
conference a ready man; and school to work under Sir Amyas Paulet, British
writing an exact man.” ambassador to France, during his mission in Paris.
Two and a half years later, he was forced to
abandon the mission prematurely and return to
“In order for the light to shine so England when his father died unexpectedly. His
brightly, the darkness must be meager inheritance left him broke. Bacon turned
present.”
to his uncle, Lord Burghley, for help in finding a
well-paid post as a government official, but
Bacon’s uncle shot him down. Still just a teen,
“A wise man will make more
Francis Bacon was scrambling to find a means of
opportunities than he finds.”
earning a decent living.

“There is no excellent beauty that


hath not some strangeness in the
proportion”. We Have the Technology

Bacon produced a large body of scientific


“Some books are to be tasted, work. His science produced no world-
others to be swallowed, and some
changing results, but his guidelines for how
few to be chewed and digested.”
science should be carried out did.
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes
wisdom.” It was obvious to Bacon that Europe in the
early 1600s enjoyed significantly better
technology than the classical world had. For
The job of the artist is always to example, the printing press had
deepen the mystery. democratized knowledge; gunpowder had
made armies much more powerful; and the
magnetic compass had facilitated better
Read not to contradict and navigation and the discovery of the
confute; nor to believe and take Americas.
for granted; nor to find talk and
discourse; but to weigh and He found it monumentally frustrating that
consider. people’s intellectual understanding of the
world had not progressed beyond that of the
Ancient Greeks’.
Emmanuel M. Guiriba Francis Bacon Philosopher 3
Biography
If a man will begin with certainties, The Scientific New World
he shall end in doubts; but if he will
be content to begin with doubts The image below is taken from Instauratio
he shall end in certainties. magna, a multi-volume work in which Bacon
explained how new knowledge in all human
activities could be discovered.
Histories make men wise; poets,
witty; the mathematics, subtile; The image conveys an important symbolic
natural philosophy, deep; moral, message from Bacon to his readers.
grave; logic and rhetoric, able to
contend.

The two pillars are the mythical Pillars of


Hercules, marking the end of the
Mediterranean Sea and the beginning of the
Atlantic Ocean.

Bacon believed it was time to move beyond


the ancient philosophies which had come
from Mediterranean countries, and with fresh
minds and new methods set out on an up-to-
date exploration of the laws of Nature. The
discoveries would be rewarding, both
financially and intellectually, as the voyages
to the New World had been.
Figure 1 Part of the title page illustration of
Instauratio magna.
The image shows one ship returning, bringing
new discoveries, while another sets off in search of more. The words in Latin at the
bottom of the image are “Multi pertransibunt & augebitur Scientia.” The meaning is:
“Many will pass through and knowledge will be increased.”

Throwing Out Aristotle

The attitude of most scholars in the early 1600s was, in short, that after you had
mastered what Aristotle had to say about Nature, you knew everything. You could
then go off and do something else.
Emmanuel M. Guiriba Francis Bacon Philosopher 4
Biography
Bacon’s objective was to replace Aristotle and Plato’s works, which were based on
logical and philosophical arguments, with a new body of scientific knowledge
secured by experiments and observations.

He also objected to the tendency of Aristotle, Plato, and others including Pythagoras
to mix scientific ideas with religious ideas. Bacon believed that the two should be kept
separate. He was highly suspicious of people who said the laws of nature were there
as part of a greater purpose. He thought they were there to be discovered and, if
possible, exploited.

“The corruption of philosophy by the mixing of it up with superstition and theology, is


of a much wider extent, and is most injurious to it both as a whole and in parts.”

Francis Bacon

Novum Organum, 1620

Bacon’s most significant work, Novum Organum (The New Tool), described what
came to be called the Baconian Method of science. Published in 1620, it was part of
his Instauratio magna series of books.

“Bacon first taught the world the true method of the study of nature, and rescued
science from that barbarism in which the followers of Aristotle, by a too servile
imitation of their master, had involved it.”

Thomas Young, Physicist

A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts, 1845

The Inductive Method


Bacon championed the inductive method in science. This means you move from
specific facts to a general rule. You do not start with a hypothesis or theory.

Aristotle, on the other hand, used the deductive method. He would move from a
general rule to specific facts. He started with rules he had developed from logical
arguments.
Emmanuel M. Guiriba Francis Bacon Philosopher 5
Biography
Aristotle vs Bacon
In Search of the Best Way of discovering Nature’s Laws

For example, imagine you lived in the 1800s and were interested in the electric
conductivity of solids.

An inductive investigation could have involved measuring the electric conductivities


of a number of solid materials such as silver, gold, iron, platinum, lead, copper, zinc,
tin, brass, sulfur, phosphorus, wood, table salt, granite, sand and sugar. The specific
results would allow you to state the general rule that metals conduct electricity better
than nonmetals.

In a deductive investigation Aristotle, had he still been around, would have started
with his general rule saying something like: “I believe that because [insert logical
argument here], metals will be better electrical conductors than nonmetals.” He
would then have used his rule to say that, for example, copper will be a better
conductor than wood.

Of course, if Aristotle’s rule turned out to be wrong, as it often did, then anyone who
used his ideas would end up with a defective understanding of Nature, as indeed they
often did.