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.
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,
But may be term'd the worst of all the three?
Domestic cares afflict the husband's bed, or pains his head:
Those that live single, take it for a curse, or do things worse:
Some would have children; those that have them none; or wish them gone.
What is it then to have no wife, but single thralldom or a double strife?
Our own affections still at home to please, is a disease:
To cross the sea to any foreign soil, perils and toil:
Wars with their noise affright us: when they cease,
We are worse in peace:
What then remains, but that we still should cry,
Not to be born, or being born, to die.
Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.
For a crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
Wives are young men's mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men's nurses.
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from others lands, but a continent that joins to them.
It is true, that a little Philosophy inclineth Mans Minde to Atheisme; But depth in Philosophy, bringeth Mens Mindes about to Religion.
Knowledge is power.
Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other.
Discretion of speech is more than eloquence, and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words, or in good order.
There is as much difference between the counsel that a friend giveth, and that a man giveth himself, as there is between the counsel of a friend and of a flatterer. For there is no such flatterer as is a man's self.
It is a strange desire, to seek power, and to lose liberty; or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man's self.
He that will not apply new remedies, must expect new evils: for Time is the greatest innovator: and if Time, of course, alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?
Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried, or childless men.
He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.
Children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter.
The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears.
Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swoln, and drowns things weighty and solid.
Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more a man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.
Nakedness is uncomely, as well in mind as body, and it addeth no small reverence to men's manners and actions if they be not altogether open.... Therefore set it down: That a habit of secrecy is both politic and moral.
There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little.
Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.
For also knowledge itself is power.
We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do.
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land when they see nothing but sea.
Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.
For man is but the servant and interpreter of nature: what he does and what he knows is only what he has observed of nature's order in fact or in thought; beyond this he knows nothing and can do nothing.
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 the course of nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.
For my name and memory I leave to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations and the next ages.
For my name and memory I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and the next ages.
If we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us.
It is the true office of history to represent the events themselves, together with the counsels, and to leave the observations and conclusions thereupon to the liberty and faculty of every man's judgement.
It is as hard and severe a thing to be a true politician as to be truly moral.
I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death.
Age appears to be best in four things—old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.
There was a young man in Rome that was very like Augustus Caesar; Augustus took knowledge of it and sent for the man, and asked him "Was your mother never at Rome?" He answered "No Sir; but my father was."
As the births of living creatures, at first, are ill-shapen: so are all Innovations, which are the births of time.
Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.
Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of success.
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.
What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.
Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.
Cure the disease and kill the patient.
Houses are built to live in, and not to look on: therefore let use be preferred before uniformity.