Sir Francis Bacon
Biography of Sir Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon was the son of Nicolas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Seal of Elisabeth I. He entered Trinity College Cambridge at age 12. Bacon later described his tutors as "Men of sharp wits, shut up in their cells of a few authors, chiefly Aristotle, their Dictator." This is likely the beginning of Bacon's rejection of Aristotelianism and Scholasticism and the new Renaissance Humanism.
His father died when he was 18, and being the youngest son this left him virtually penniless. He turned to the law and at 23 he was already in the House of Commons. His rich relatives did little to advance his career and Elisabeth apparently distrusted him. It was not until James I became King that Bacon's career advanced. He rose to become Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Albans and Lord Chancellor of England. His fall came about in the course of a struggle between King and Parliament. He was accused of having taken a bribe while a judge, tried and found guilty. He thus lost his personal honour, his fortune and his place at court.
Loren Eiseley in his beautifully written book about Bacon The Man Who Saw Through Time remarks that Bacon: "...more fully than any man of his time, entertained the idea of the universe as a problem to be solved, examined, meditated upon, rather than as an eternally fixed stage, upon which man walked."
The title page from Bacon's Instauratio Magna contains his Novum Organum which is a new method to replace that of Aristotle. The image is of a ship passing through the pillars of Hercules, which symbolized for the ancients the limits of man's possible explorations. The image represents the analogy between the great voyages of discovery and the explorations leading to the advancement of learning. In The Advancement of Learning Bacon makes this analogy explicit. Speaking to James I, to whom the book is dedicated, he writes: "For why should a few received authors stand up like Hercules columns, beyond which there should be no sailing or discovering, since we have so bright and benign a star as your Majesty to conduct and prosper us." The image also forcefully suggests that using Bacon's new method, the boundaries of ancient learning will be passed. The Latin phrase at the bottom from the Book of Daniel means: "Many will pass through and knowledge will be increased."
Bacon saw himself as the inventor of a method which would kindle a light in nature - "a light that would eventually disclose and bring into sight all that is most hidden and secret in the universe." This method involved the collection of data, their judicious interpretation, the carrying out of experiments, thus to learn the secrets of nature by organized observation of its regularities. Bacon's proposals had a powerful influence on the development of science in seventeenth century Europe. Thomas Hobbes served as Bacon's last amunensis or secretary. Many members of the British Royal Society saw Bacon as advocating the kind of enquiry conducted by that society.
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Sir Francis Bacon Poems
The man of life upright, whose guiltless heart is free From all dishonest deeds and thoughts of vanity: The man whose silent days in harmless joys are spent, Whom hopes cannot delude, nor fortune discontent;
The Life Of Man
The world's a bubble; and the life of man less than a span. In his conception wretched; from the womb so to the tomb: Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years, with cares and fears. Who then to frail mortality shall trust,
Help Lord, for godly men have took their flight, And left the earth to be the wicked's den: Not one that standeth fast to Truth and Right, But fears, or seeks to please, the eyes of men.
Sing A New Song
O sing a new song, to our God above, Avoid profane ones, 'tis for holy choir: Let Israel sing song of holy love To him that made them, with their hearts on fire:
The Interpretation Of Nature And
I. MAN, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.
The Life Of Man
The world's a bubble; and the life of man less than a span.
In his conception wretched; from the womb so to the tomb:
Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years, with cares and fears.
Who then to frail mortality shall trust,
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.
Yet, since with sorrow here we live oppress'd, what life is best?
Courts are but only superficial schools to dandle fools:
The rural parts are turn'd into a den of savage men:
And where's a city from all vice so free,