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by Michael Erlewine

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Bacon, Francis [Astro*Index]

(1561-1626) English philosopher.

Studied law at Cambridge and acquired a distaste for the philosophy of Aristotle. Made a member of Parliament in 1584, he became confidential aid of the Earl of Essex. In 1601, he was one of the judges who tried and convicted Essex for treason. With the death of Queen Elizabeth I, he won the favor of James I, her successor. He was knighted in 1603, made solicitor general in 1607, attorney general in 1613, lord chancellor in 1618, and given peerage as Baron Verulam that same year. In 1621, he was made Viscount of St. Albans.

He was accused and convicted of accepting bribes as a judge, but was saved from the most severe punishement by the King's intervention.

Some writers have advanced the idea that it was Francis Bacon who wrote Shakespeare's plays. Bacon argued against mysticism in his book, Advancement of Learning, published in 1605. And, in 1620, his work, Novum Organum, presents a new method of reasoning to replace the deductive reasoning in logic given in the Organon of Aristotle: While deduction might work well for mathematics, it could not be expected to do so for science. Rather, scientific findings must be induced and generalized from particular observations.

Bacon's theory of experimental science lifted the art from the level of the lowly tinkerer to the respectable pursuit of English gentlemen. Soon a discussion group was formed, and their actions led to the establishment of the Royal Society, which attracted the most brilliant scientists to assemble in one place since the ancient Alexandrian Museum.


See also: ♦ Scientific Revolution


Bacon, Roger [Astro*Index]

(1220?-1292?) English scholar.

Born at Ilchester, Somerset; died at Oxford.

Wrote several pieces on astrology. Son of wealthy parents (who served King Henry III), he studied at Oxford, then taught and studied at Paris, returning to Oxford in 1247 to concentrate his efforts on research.

A member of the Franciscan Order, he was an outspoken critic of many, leading to the suppression of his works and his imprisonment for 15 years. Pope Clement IV, until his death in 1268, was a great admirer of Bacon and provided papal protection.

Bacon accepted astrology as valid, but denounced magic. His suggestion that it would be possible to circumnavigate the earth was quoted by Columbus in a letter to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. He pointed out the defect in the Julian Calendar which caused it to be in error by about one day each century (corrected in the Gregorian Calendar). He acknowledged the value of Greek, and prepared a Greek grammar. His interest in Optics led him to construct spectacles. He claimed alchemy was essential to medicine. His various remarks invoke images (or predictions) of the telescope, steamship, automobile, and the airplane. His appeals to Pope Clement to improve the educational system by the introduction of more experimentation were unsuccessful, and 350 years passed before experimentation and empirical observation became the dominant force in the advancement of science.


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine

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