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Francis Bacon - Biography and Legacy
Born in Dublin, Francis Bacon was named after his famous ancestor, the English philosopher and scientist. His father, Edward, served in the army and later took a job in the War Office during World War I. In an interview with critic David Sylvester, Bacon attributed the connotations of violence in his paintings to the turbulent circumstances of his early life. A British regiment was stationed near his childhood home, and he remembered constantly hearing soldiers practicing maneuvers. Naturally, his father's position in the War Office alerted him to the threat of violence at an early age. Returning to Dublin after the war, he came of age amidst the early campaigns of the Irish nationalist movement.
Young Francis had little formal education due to his severe asthma and the family's frequent traveling for Edward's post. Bacon's mother, Christina, lived the life of a socialite, and with his father away at work, Francis was often left to his own devices. Although he had four siblings, Bacon had a close relationship with his nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, who later came to live with him for many years in London (the elderly lady may have been very important help to the self-destructive Bacon).
Family relations became more abusive as Bacon dealt with his emerging homosexuality - the young artist was harshly disciplined by his father (his father had him whipped by stable boys, who were also involved in Bacon's first sexual experiences). He was finally expelled from the house in 1926 after his father caught him trying on his mother's clothing. Surviving on a small allowance, Bacon lived the life of a vagrant, traveling around London, Berlin, and Paris. Despite his father's hopes, the change of scenery only freed Bacon to further explore his sexual identity his time in Berlin proved particularly important in this regard and was later remembered by him as one of emotional awakening.
Bacon moved into a London apartment in the late 1920s and became involved with interior and furniture design. One of his patrons, the artist Roy de Maistre, became a mentor to Bacon and encouraged him to take up oil painting. Bacon modeled his early work after Picasso and the Surrealists, whose work he had seen on a trip to Paris. In 1933, Bacon exhibited Crucifixion, a skeletal black and white composition that already radiated the overtones of pain and fear that would become typical of his later work. The painting was simultaneously published in Herbert Read's book Art Now, and was quickly purchased by Sir Michael Sadler . Encouraged by his success, Bacon organized an exhibition of his own art the following year, but it received little attention. His paintings were also surveyed for inclusion in the International Surrealist Exhibition, organized by Herbert Read, but were rejected for not being surrealist enough. Discouraged, Bacon returned to a drifter's lifestyle. He destroyed the majority of his work from before 1943, and only fifteen pieces from this early period have survived.
Due to his asthma, Bacon was unable to join the armed forces during WWII. He was accepted as a member of the Air Raid Precaution sector, which involved non-military search and rescue, only to be discharged when he fell ill from the dust and rubble. "If I hadn't been asthmatic, I might never have gone onto painting at all," he admitted. After the war, he took up painting with a renewed passion, regarding Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) as the true beginning of his work. The long necks, snapping mouths and contorted bodies featured in the painting express horror and suffering, a forceful commentary on the aftermath of the war. Bacon modeled the figures after photos of animals in motion, showing an early interest in the movement of the body that became a strong theme in his later painting. During its exhibition at Lefevre Gallery critics were mostly shocked by the blatant imagery, but the numerous reviews put Bacon into the spotlight.
His breakout success at the 1944 exhibition gained him further opportunities to show with Lefevre. Graham Sutherland , a friend and fellow exhibitor, also recommended him to the director of Hanover Gallery, where Bacon had his first solo exhibition in 1949. For this show Bacon painted a series entitled Heads, significant for being the first series to introduce two important motifs: the first was the scream, derived from a film still drawn from Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin in which an injured schoolteacher is shown screaming (probably in pain) the second is Diego Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (c.1650), a painting Bacon only knew through reproductions (and which he would always maintain never to have seen in the original). The Heads series also made greater use of enclosing devices that suggest a pervasive sense of claustrophobia and anxiety, in this instance a shallow cage-like outline which Bacon had also employed in Three Studies from 1944.
In 1952 Bacon began one of his most powerful relationships, with the ex -WWII fighter pilot Peter Lacy. Lacy was attractive, well-bred, and highly self-destructive. The two had a powerful and violent relationship - on one drunken occasion Lacy threw Bacon through a window and the artist suffered a large number of (minor) injuries. Through various escapades and foreign rendevous (with both men enjoying a variety of sexual partners in between their time together) their relationship deteriorated by 1958. A number of his relationships, and especially the many close years with Lucian Freud are discussed in Sebastian Smee's book "The Art of Rivalry".
In 1953, Hanover held an exhibition of Bacon's paintings that included Two Figures, a depiction of two men embracing in bed, an image that created a huge scandal. The composition was based upon photographs taken by the Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge. He said "The thing is, unless you look at those Muybridge figures with a magnifying glass, it's very difficult to see whether they're wrestling or having sex." In fact, Bacon often preferred to work from photographs, relying on his friend John Deakin to take pictures of his subjects, but he was fascinated by Muybridge's attempts to capture and record bodies in motion. Bacon kept a collection of Muybridge's books in his studio as a constant source of reference, and even suggested that his intensive study of these sequential photographs triggered his own interest in working in series.
Bacon's tendency to derive inspiration from personal experiences also attracted him to portraiture. He often painted close friends (Lucian Freud, Isabel Rawsthorne , Michel Leiris ), and the results convey a striking emotional and psychological intensity. One of Bacon's most famous subjects was his friend and lover George Dyer , who he met in 1964. During the course of their relationship, Bacon executed numerous portraits of Dyer that juxtaposed a strong musculature with a feeling of vulnerability, as in Portrait of George Dyer Crouching (1966), suggesting an affectionate yet protective attitude toward the younger man. Dyer suffered from alcoholism and episodes of depression, ultimately committing suicide on the night before Bacon's first retrospective in France in 1971.
Late Years and Death
After the Paris exhibition Bacon moved increasingly toward self-portraiture, claiming, "people around me have been dying like flies and there is nothing else to paint but myself." Continuing to work steadily, he also completed a number of paintings in tribute to Dyer's memory. Many of these took the form of large format triptychs, including the well-regarded "Black triptych" series that recounted the details of Dyer's passing. In 1973, Bacon became the first contemporary English artist to have a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His work was exhibited internationally throughout the later years of his life, including retrospectives at the Hirshhorn and the Tate Gallery. In the mid 1970s, Bacon met John Edwards , who replaced both Dyer and Deakin as Bacon's constant companion and photographer. In his last years, Bacon retreated from his formerly boisterous social life, focusing on his work and the platonic relationship with Edwards. He died of a heart attack in Madrid at the age of 81.
The Legacy of Francis Bacon
Bacon's unique interpretations and the intensely personal nature of his work make it difficult to visually trace his influence in contemporary art. Nevertheless, his paintings have inspired some of the most standout artists of this generation, including Julian Schnabel and Damien Hirst.
John Edwards, who inherited the estate, played an important role in promoting Bacon's work until his death in 2003. He was responsible for the donation of Bacon's studio to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, and this was turned into a permanent exhibition and research archive.
Francis Bacon - History
Francis Bacon was a British philosopher, scientist, and a lawyer. Having written a number of highly influential works on religion, law, state, science and politics, he was one of the early pioneers of the scientific methodology who created “empiricism” and motivated the scientific revolution.
Bacon’s Early Years
Francis Bacon was born in 1561 to Nicolas Bacon and Anne Cooke Bacon. His father was a popular politician and a Lord Keeper of the Seal. His mother, Anne Bacon, was his father’s second wife. Bacon’s mother was a sister-in-law to Lord Burghley.
Bacon was homeschooled in his younger years. The younger of Nicholas Bacon and Anne Cook’s two sons, Francis Bacon entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1573, when he was 11 years of age. He finished his course of study at the school in 1575. In 1576, he went to Gray’s Inn to study law. However, he found the curriculum at the school to be too old-fashioned.
Bacon’s Educational Years
One year after joining with Gray’s Inn, Bacon dropped out of school to work at the learning institution. He also traveled to France as a part of the British ambassador’s suite. Two years later, he was forced to return to England when his father died. Bacon was 18 years old when his father passed away in 1576, leaving him broke. He turned to his uncle for help in finding a well-paying job as a governor, but his uncle let him down.
Still a teen, Bacon was struggling to find a means of earning a living. After working for a while, he returned to Gray’s Inn to finish his education. By 1582, he was given the position of an outer barrister. While his political career was successful, Bacon had other philosophical and political ambitions. He joined politics but he suffered a major setback because of his objections to raise the military budget, a stand that displeased Queen Elizabeth.
Bacon and Politics
Francis Bacon served as a member of parliament for almost 40 years, during which time he was active in politics, royal court, and law. In 1603, three years before he married his fiancé, Alice Barnham, he was knighted upon James I’s ascension to the British throne. Bacon continued to work his way up fast, attaining solicitor general in 1607 and attorney six years later. His career peaked in 1616 when he joined the Privy Council. A year later, he became Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, a position his father held before he died. In 1618, he was appointed Lord Chancellor, one of England’s highest political seats.
Bacon’s Political Career Falls
In 1621, Bacon was accused of graft. It is believed that Bacon was set up by his political enemies, and was used as a scapegoat by his opponents. He was charged for accepting bribes and he pleaded guilty to the charges. He was fined 40,000 pounds and sentenced. Fortunately, his fine was lifted and his sentence was reduced. Four days after imprisonment, he walked to freedom at the expense of his reputation as well as his long-standing place in Parliament.
Life after Politics
Bacon retired from politics after the collapse of his political career. He was now able to focus on philosophy. Since childhood, Bacon was determined to transform the face of philosophy. He created a new outline for sciences with the focus on empirical scientific methodologies – methodologies that largely depend on touchable proof.
Unlike many philosophers, his approach placed a lot of emphasis on interaction and experimentation. His new scientific approach entailed collecting data, analyzing it carefully, and carrying out experiments to observe the truths of nature in an organized manner.
Bacon’s Greatest Achievements
Francis Bacon is known as the father of contemporary science. He initiated a huge reformation of each and every process of knowledge. As an inventor of empiricism, he made a set of inductive and empirical methods for setting off scientific inquiry, commonly known now as the Baconian method.
Bacon’s call for a plotted process of addressing issues with an empiricist naturalistic way had a big impact on theoretical and rhetorical framework for science. Also, he served as a philosophical inspiration behind the development of the Industrial Age.
Francis Bacon was a devout Anglican remembered for his public failure and a great scientific mind. Perhaps, as he said, the "best of men are like the best of precious stones, wherein every flaw . [is] noted more than in those that are generally foul and corrupted."
Years of frustration
Bacon had a wonderful start. His father was a high official serving Queen Elizabeth, and his mother was a woman of keen intelligence. But Francis was bored with his tutors and appalled by the scholastic disputation that passed for science. He dropped out of Cambridge at 15, and his father got him an appointment to serve the ambassador to France. These youthful privileges were stripped away in 1579 when his father died, leaving him precious little. He returned to school with renewed purpose, becoming a barrister, a Member of Parliament, and a law professor in the next seven years. But he was satisfied neither with his honors nor his income.
Nicolaus Copernicus' heliocentric theory published
Gerardus Mercator discovers magnetic pole of earth
Giambattista Benedetti proposes equality of fall rates
Evangelista Torricelli invents mercury barometer
His efforts at advancement were stymied, mainly because the queen didn't like him. But she did like his patron, the Earl of Essex. Essex treated Bacon like a son and was a good mentor until he led a revolt. Elizabeth appointed Bacon to a minor post in the prosecution of his friend, but he threw himself into the case with fervor. Alexander Pope called him "the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind," but Bacon wrote to Essex that he must prefer the good of his country to their friendship.
Years of achievement
The ascension of King James marked a new beginning for Bacon. This ruler liked him, and his rise to the peak of political power was dizzying. In 1607 he was solicitor general, then clerk of the star chamber, attorney general, lord keeper of the seal, and in 1618, lord chancellor. During this period he also published his most famous literary works. The Instauratio Magna (Great Revival) was to be nothing less than a comprehensive theory of knowledge. He only completed two parts, but in these he summed up the extent of learning and the deficiencies in human understanding, and he proposed a new science based on experimentation, inductive reasoning, and the betterment of the human condition.
The House of Commons lodged a corruption complaint against him in 1620. He pleaded guilty, noting that although he was "the justest judge," he had partaken in "the abuse of the times." Within a year, he had been stripped of his offices, broken financially, and ruined politically.
He retired to his writing. He introduced the essay form to the English language and completed The New Atlantis , which mixed his scientific approach and his Christian beliefs. Bacon divided knowledge into philosophy, or natural knowledge, and divinity, or inspired revelation. Though he insisted that philosophy and the natural world must be studied inductively, he argued that where religion is concerned, we can only study arguments for the existence of God. Knowledge of God's nature, action, and purposes can only come from special revelation. But Bacon also believed that knowledge was cumulative, that study encompassed more than a simple preservation of the past. True study, he said, will ultimately help mankind. "Knowledge is the rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate," he wrote. "A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."
In 1626 he stopped in the snow to conduct an experiment on the preservation of food, fell ill, and died on Easter Sunday. In his will, he included this final prayer: "When I thought most of peace and honor, thy hand [was] heavy on me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving kindness. &hellip Just are thy judgments upon my sins. &hellip Be merciful unto me for my Savior's sake, and receive me into thy bosom."
3. Natural Philosophy: Theory of the Idols and the System of Sciences
3.1 The Idols
Bacon's doctrine of the idols not only represents a stage in the history of theories of error (Brandt 1979) but also functions as an important theoretical element within the rise of modern empiricism. According to Bacon, the human mind is not a tabula rasa. Instead of an ideal plane for receiving an image of the world in toto, it is a crooked mirror, on account of implicit distortions (Bacon IV , 428&ndash34). He does not sketch a basic epistemology but underlines that the images in our mind right from the beginning do not render an objective picture of the true objects. Consequently, we have to improve our mind, i.e., free it from the idols, before we start any knowledge acquisition.
As early as Temporis partus masculus, Bacon warns the student of empirical science not to tackle the complexities of his subject without purging the mind of its idols:
On waxen tablets you cannot write anything new until you rub out the old. With the mind it is not so there you cannot rub out the old till you have written in the new. (Farrington 1964, 72)
In Redargutio Philosophiarum Bacon reflects on his method, but he also criticizes prejudices and false opinions, especially the system of speculation established by theologians, as an obstacle to the progress of science (Farrington 1964, 107), together with any authoritarian stance in scholarly matters.
Bacon deals with the idols in the Second Book of The Advancement of Learning, where he discusses Arts intellectual (Invention, Judgment, Memory, Tradition). In his paragraph on judgment he refers to proofs and demonstrations, especially to induction and invention. When he comes to Aristotle's treatment of the syllogism, he reflects on the relation between sophistical fallacies (Aristotle, De Sophisticis Elenchis) and the idols (Bacon III , 392&ndash6). Whereas induction, invention, and judgment presuppose &ldquothe same action of the mind&rdquo, this is not true for proof in the syllogism. Bacon, therefore, prefers his own interpretatio naturae, repudiating elenches as modes of sophistical &lsquojuggling&rsquo in order to persuade others in redargutions (&ldquodegenerate and corrupt use &hellip for caption and contradiction&rdquo). There is no finding without proof and no proof without finding. But this is not true for the syllogism, in which proof (syllogism: judgment of the consequent) and invention (of the &lsquomean&rsquo or middle term) are distinct. The caution he suggests in relation to the ambiguities in elenches is also recommended in face of the idols:
there is yet a much more important and profound kind of fallacies in the mind of man, which I find not observed or enquired at all, and think good to place here, as that which of all others appertaineth most to rectify judgment: the force whereof is such, as it doth not dazzle or snare the understanding in some particulars, but doth more generally and inwardly infect and corrupt the state thereof. For the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass, wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence, nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture, if it be not delivered and reduced. For this purpose, let us consider the false appearances that are imposed upon us by the general nature of the mind &hellip. (Bacon III , 394&ndash5)
Bacon still presents a similar line of argument to his reader in 1623, namely in De Augmentis (Book V, Chap. 4 see Bacon IV , 428&ndash34). Judgment by syllogism presupposes&mdashin a mode agreeable to the human mind&mdashmediated proof, which, unlike in induction, does not start from sense in primary objects. In order to control the workings of the mind, syllogistic judgment refers to a fixed frame of reference or principle of knowledge as the basis for &ldquoall the variety of disputations&rdquo (Bacon IV , 491). The reduction of propositions to principles leads to the middle term. Bacon deals here with the art of judgment in order to assign a systematic position to the idols. Within this art he distinguishes the &lsquoAnalytic&rsquo from the detection of fallacies (sophistical syllogisms). Analytic works with &ldquotrue forms of consequences in argument&rdquo (Bacon IV , 429), which become faulty by variation and deflection. The complete doctrine of detection of fallacies, according to Bacon, contains three segments:
- Sophistical fallacies,
- Fallacies of interpretation, and
- False appearances or Idols.
Concerning (1) Bacon praises Aristotle for his excellent handling of the matter, but he also mentions Plato honorably. Fallacies of interpretation (2) refer to &ldquoAdventitious Conditions or Adjuncts of Essences&rdquo, similar to the predicaments, open to physical or logical inquiry. He focuses his attention on the logical handling when he relates the detection of fallacies of interpretation to the wrong use of common and general notions, which leads to sophisms. In the last section (3) Bacon finds a place for his idols, when he refers to the detection of false appearances as
the deepest fallacies of the human mind: For they do not deceive in particulars, as the others do, by clouding and snaring the judgment but by a corrupt and ill-ordered predisposition of mind, which as it were perverts and infects all the anticipations of the intellect. (IV, 431)
Idols are productions of the human imagination (caused by the crooked mirror of the human mind) and thus are nothing more than &ldquountested generalities&rdquo (Malherbe 1996, 80).
In his Preface to the Novum Organum Bacon promises the introduction of a new method, which will restore the senses to their former rank (Bacon IV , 17f.), begin the whole labor of the mind again, and open two sources and two distributions of learning, consisting of a method of cultivating the sciences and another of discovering them. This new beginning presupposes the discovery of the natural obstacles to efficient scientific analysis, namely seeing through the idols, so that the mind's function as the subject of knowledge acquisition comes into focus (Brandt 1979, 19).
According to Aphorism XXIII of the First Book, Bacon makes a distinction between the Idols of the human mind and the Ideas of the divine mind: whereas the former are for him nothing more than &ldquocertain empty dogmas&rdquo, the latter show &ldquothe true signatures and marks set upon the works of creation as they are found in nature&rdquo (Bacon IV , 51).
3.1.1 Idols of the Tribe
The Idols of the Tribe have their origin in the production of false concepts due to human nature, because the structure of human understanding is like a crooked mirror, which causes distorted reflections (of things in the external world).
3.1.2 Idols of the Cave
The Idols of the Cave consist of conceptions or doctrines which are dear to the individual who cherishes them, without possessing any evidence of their truth. These idols are due to the preconditioned system of every individual, comprising education, custom, or accidental or contingent experiences.
3.1.3 Idols of the Market Place
These idols are based on false conceptions which are derived from public human communication. They enter our minds quietly by a combination of words and names, so that it comes to pass that not only does reason govern words, but words react on our understanding.
3.1.4 Idols of the Theatre
According to the insight that the world is a stage, the Idols of the Theatre are prejudices stemming from received or traditional philosophical systems. These systems resemble plays in so far as they render fictional worlds, which were never exposed to an experimental check or to a test by experience. The idols of the theatre thus have their origin in dogmatic philosophy or in wrong laws of demonstration.
Bacon ends his presentation of the idols in Novum Organum, Book I, Aphorism LXVIII, with the remark that men should abjure and renounce the qualities of idols, &ldquoand the understanding [must be] thoroughly freed and cleansed&rdquo (Bacon IV , 69). He discusses the idols together with the problem of information gained through the senses, which must be corrected by the use of experiments (Bacon IV , 27).
3.2 System of Sciences
Within the history of occidental philosophy and science, Bacon identifies only three revolutions or periods of learning: the heyday of the Greeks and that of the Romans and Western Europe in his own time (Bacon IV , 70ff.). This meager result stimulated his ambition to establish a new system of the sciences. This tendency can already be seen in his early manuscripts, but is also apparent in his first major book, The Advancement of Learning. In this work Bacon presents a systematic survey of the extant realms of knowledge, combined with meticulous descriptions of deficiencies, leading to his new classification of knowledge. In The Advancement (Bacon III , 282f.) a new function is given to philosophia prima, the necessity of which he had indicated in the Novum Organum, I, Aphorisms LXXIX&ndashLXXX (Bacon IV , 78&ndash9). In both texts this function is attributed to philosophia naturalis, the basis for his concept of the unity of the sciences and thus of materialism.
Natural science is divided by Bacon into physics and metaphysics. The former investigates variable and particular causes, the latter reflects on general and constant ones, for which the term form is used. Forms are more general than the four Aristotelian causes and that is why Bacon's discussion of the forms of substances as the most general properties of matter is the last step for the human mind when investigating nature. Metaphysics is distinct from philosophia prima. The latter marks the position in the system where general categories of a general theory of science are treated as (1) universal categories of thought, (2) relevant for all disciplines. Final causes are discredited, since they lead to difficulties in science and tempt us to amalgamate theological and teleological points of doctrine. At the summit of Bacon's pyramid of knowledge are the laws of nature (the most general principles). At its base the pyramid starts with observations, moves on to invariant relations and then to more inclusive correlations until it reaches the stage of forms. The process of generalization ascends from natural history via physics towards metaphysics, whereas accidental correlations and relations are eliminated by the method of exclusion. It must be emphasized that metaphysics has a special meaning for Bacon. This concept (1) excludes the infinity of individual experience by generalization with a teleological focus and (2) opens our mind to generate more possibilities for the efficient application of general laws.
3.3 Matter Theory and Cosmology
According to Bacon, man would be able to explain all the processes in nature if he could acquire full insight into the hidden structure and the secret workings of matter (Pérez-Ramos 1988, 101). Bacon's conception of structures in nature, functioning according to its own working method, concentrates on the question of how natural order is produced, namely by the interplay of matter and motion. In De Principiis atque Originibus, his materialistic stance with regard to his conception of natural law becomes evident. The Summary Law of Nature is a virtus (matter-cum-motion) or power in accordance with matter theory, or
the force implanted by God in these first particles, form the multiplication thereof of all the variety of things proceeds and is made up. (Bacon V , 463)
Similarly, in De Sapientia Veterum he attributes to this force an
appetite or instinct of primal matter or to speak more plainly, the natural motion of the atom which is indeed the original and unique force that constitutes and fashions all things out of matter. (Bacon VI , 729)
Suffice it to say here that Bacon, who did not reject mathematics in science, was influenced by the early mathematical version of chemistry developed in the 16 th century, so that the term &lsquoinstinct&rsquo must be seen as a keyword for his theory of nature. The natural philosopher is urged to inquire into the
appetites and inclination of things by which all that variety of effects and changes which we see in the works of nature and art is brought about. (Bacon III , 17&ndash22 V , 422&ndash6 and 510ff.: Descriptio Globi Intellectualis cf. IV , 349)
Bacon's theory of active or even vivid force in matter accounts for what he calls Cupid in De Principiis atque Originibus (Bacon V , 463&ndash5). Since his theory of matter aims at an explanation of the reality which is the substratum of appearances, he digs deeper than did the mechanistic physics of the 17 th century (Gaukroger 2001, 132&ndash7). Bacon's ideas concerning the quid facti of reality presuppose the distinction
between understanding how things are made up and of what they consist, &hellip and by what force and in what manner they come together, and how they are transformed. (Gaukroger 2001, 137)
This is the point in his work where it becomes obvious that he tries to develop an explanatory pattern in which his theory of matter, and thus his atomism, are related to his cosmology, magic, and alchemy.
In De Augmentis, Bacon not only refers to Pan and his nymphs in order to illustrate the permanent atomic movement in matter but in addition revives the idea of magic in a &lsquohonourable meaning&rsquo as
the knowledge of the universal consents of things &hellip. I &hellip understand [magic] as the science which applies the knowledge of hidden forms to the production of wonderful operations and by uniting (as they say) actives with passives, displays the wonderful works of nature. (Bacon IV , 366&ndash7: De Augmentis III.5)
Bacon's notion of form is made possible by integration into his matter theory, which (ideally) reduces the world of appearances to some minimal parts accessible and open to manipulation by the knower/maker. In contrast to Aristotle, Bacon's knowing-why type of definition points towards the formulation of an efficient knowing-how type (Pérez-Ramos 1988, 119). In this sense a convergence between the scope of definition and that of causation takes place according to a &lsquoconstructivist epistemology&rsquo. The fundamental research of Graham Rees has shown that Bacon's special mode of cosmology is deeply influenced by magic and semi-Paracelsian doctrine. For Bacon, matter theory is the basic doctrine, not classical mechanics as it is with Galileo. Consequently, Bacon's purified and modified versions of chemistry, alchemy, and physiology remain primary disciplines for his explanation of the world.
According to Rees, the Instauratio Magna comprises two branches: (1) Bacon's famous scientific method, and (2) his semi-Paracelsian world system as &ldquoa vast, comprehensive system of speculative physics&rdquo (Rees 1986, 418). For (2) Bacon conjoins his specific version of Paracelsian cosmic chemistry to Islamic celestial kinematics (especially in Alpetragius [al-Bitruji] see Zinner 1988, 71). The chemical world system is used to support Bacon's explanation of celestial motion in the face of contemporary astronomical problems (Rees 1975b, 161f.). There are thus two sections in Bacon's Instauratio, which imply the modes of their own explanation.
Bacon's speculative cosmology and matter theory had been planned to constitute Part 5 of Instauratio Magna. The theory put forward refers in an eclectic vein to atomism, criticizes Aristotelians and Copernicans, but also touches on Galileo, Paracelsus, William Gilbert, Telesio, and Arabic astronomy.
For Bacon, &lsquomagic&rsquo is classified as applied science, while he generally subsumes under &lsquoscience&rsquo pure science and technology. It is never identified with black magic, since it represents the &ldquoultimate legitimate power over nature&rdquo (Rees 2000, 66). Whereas magia was connected to crafts in the 16 th and 17 th centuries, Bacon's science remains the knowledge of forms in order to transform them into operations. Knowledge in this context, however, is no longer exclusively based on formal proof.
Bacon's cosmological system&mdasha result of thought experiments and speculation, but not proven in accordance with the inductive method&mdashpresupposes a finite universe, a geocentric plenum, which means that the earth is passive and consists of tangible matter. The remaining universe is composed of active or pneumatic matter. Whereas the interior and tangible matter of the earth is covered by a crust which separates it from the pneumatic heaven, the zone between earth and the &ldquomiddle region of the air&rdquo allows a mixture of pneumatic and tangible matter, which is the origin of organic and non-organic phenomena. Bacon speaks here of &ldquoattached spirit&rdquo (Rees 1986, 418&ndash20), while otherwise he assumes four kinds of free spirit: air and terrestrial fire, which refer to the sublunary realm ether and sidereal fire, which are relevant to the celestial realm. Ether is explained as the medium in which planets move around the central earth. Air and ether, as well as watery non-inflammable bodies, belong to Bacon's first group of substances or to the Mercury Quaternion.
Terrestrial fire is presented as the weak variant of sidereal fire it joins with oily substances and sulphur, for all of which Bacon introduces the Sulphur Quaternion. These quaternions comprise antithetical qualities: air and ether versus fire and sidereal fire. The struggle between these qualities is determined by the distance from the earth as the absolute center of the world system. Air and ether become progressively weaker as the terrestrial and sidereal fire grow stronger. The quaternion theory functions in Bacon's thought as a constructive element for constituting his own theory of planetary movement and a general theory of physics. This theory differs from all other contemporary approaches, even though Bacon states that &ldquomany theories of the heavens may be supposed which agree well enough with the phenomena and yet differ with each other&rdquo (Bacon IV , 104). The diurnal motion of the world system (9 th sphere) is driven by sympathy it carries the heavens westward around the earth. The sidereal fire is powerful and, accordingly, sidereal motion is swift (the stars complete their revolution in 24 hours). Since the sidereal fire becomes weaker if it burns nearer to the earth, the lower planets move more slowly and unevenly than the higher ones (in this way Bacon, like Alpetragius, accounts for irregular planetary movement without reference to Ptolemy's epicycle theory). He applies his theory of consensual motion to physics generally (e.g., wind and tides) and thus comes into conflict with Gilbert's doctrine of the interstellar vacuum and Galileo's theory of the tides (for Bacon, the cycle of tides depends on the diurnal motion of the heavens but, for Galileo, on the earth's motion).
With quaternion theory we see that, in the final analysis, Bacon was not a mechanist philosopher. His theory of matter underwent an important transformation, moving in the direction of &lsquoforms&rsquo, which we would nowadays subsume under biology or the life sciences rather than under physics. Bacon distinguishes between non-spiritual matter and spiritual matter. The latter, also called &lsquosubtle matter&rsquo or &lsquospirit&rsquo, is more reminiscent of Leibniz' &lsquomonads&rsquo than of mechanically defined and materially, as well as spatially, determined atoms. The spirits are seen as active agents of phenomena they are endowed with &lsquoappetition&rsquo and &lsquoperception&rsquo (Bacon I , 320&ndash21: Historia Vitae et Mortis see also V, 63: Sylva Sylvarum, Century IX: &ldquoIt is certain that all bodies whatsoever, though they have no sense, yet they have perception: for when one body is applied to another, there is a kind of election to embrace that which is agreeable, and to exclude or expel that which is ingrate&rdquo).
These spirits are never at rest. In the Novum Organum, then, Bacon rejected the &ldquoexistence of eternal and immutable atoms and the reality of the void&rdquo (Kargon 1966, 47). His new conception of matter was therefore &ldquoclose to that of the chemists&rdquo in the sense of Bacon's semi-Paracelsian cosmology (Rees 2000, 65&ndash69). The careful natural philosopher tries to disclose the secrets of nature step by step and therefore he says of his method: &ldquoI propose to establish progressive stages of certainty&rdquo (Bacon IV , 40: Novum Organum, Preface). This points towards his inductive procedure and his method of tables, which is a complicated mode of induction by exclusion. It is necessary because nature hides her secrets. In Aphorism XIX of Book I in his Novum Organum Bacon writes:
There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immoveable, proceeds to judgment and to the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried. (Bacon IV , 50)
The laws of nature, which Bacon intended to discover by means of his new method, were expressed in the &lsquoforms&rsquo, in which the &lsquounbroken ascent&rsquo culminates. Through these forms the natural philosopher understands the general causes of phenomena (Kargon 1966, 48). In his endeavor to learn more about the secret workings of nature, Bacon came to the conclusion that the atomist theory could not provide sufficient explanations for the &ldquoreal particles, such as really exist&rdquo (Bacon IV , 126: Novum Organum, II.viii), because he thought that the immutability of matter and the void (both necessary assumptions for atomism) were untenable. His language turned from that of Greek physics to the usage of contemporary chemists. This is due to his insight that &ldquosubtlety of investigation&rdquo is needed, since our senses are too gross for the complexity and fineness of nature, so that method has to compensate for the shortcomings of our direct comprehension. Only method leads to the knowledge of nature: in Sylva Sylvarum, Century I.98 Bacon deals explicitly with the question of the asymmetrical relationship between man's natural instrument (i.e., the senses) and the intricacy of nature's structures and workings.
Bacon distinguishes &lsquoanimate&rsquo or vital spirits, which are continuous and composed of a substance similar to fire, from lifeless or inanimate spirits, which are cut off and resemble air: the spirits interact with gross matter through chemical processes (Bacon IV, 195&ndash6 (Novum Organum, II.xl)). These spirits have two different desires: self-multiplication and attraction of like spirits. According to Kargon (1966, 51):
Bacon's later theory of matter is one of the interaction of gross, visible parts of matter and invisible material spirits, both of which are physically mixed.
Spirits interact with matter by means of concoction, colliquation and other non-mechanical chemical processes, so that Bacon's scientific paradigm differs from Descartes' mechanist theory of matter in his Principia Philosophiae (1644), which presupposes res extensa moving in space. Bacon's theory of matter is thus closely related to his speculative philosophy:
The distinction between tangible and pneumatic matter is the hinge on which the entire speculative system turns. (Rees 1996, 125 Paracelsus had already stated that knowledge inheres in the object: see Shell 2004, 32)
Bacon's theory of matter in its final version was more corpuscular than atomist (Clericuzio 2000, 78). Bacon's particles are semina rerum: they are endowed with powers, which make a variety of motions possible and allow the production of all possible forms. These spirits are constitutive for Bacon's theory of matter. As material, fine substances, composed of particles, combined from air and fire, they can, as we have seen, be either inanimate or animate. Bacon thus suggests a corpuscular and chemical chain of being:
|inanimate objects||&rarr||inaugurate spirits|
|vegetables||&rarr||inanimate + vital spirits|
Small wonder, then, that Bacon's spirits are indispensable for his conception of physiology:
the vital spirits regulate all vegetative functions of plants and animals. Organs responsible for these functions, for digestion, assimilation, etc., seem to act by perception, mere reaction to local stimuli, but these reactions are coordinated by the vital spirit. These functions flow from the spirit's airy-flamy constitution. The spirit has the softness of air to receive impressions and the vigour of fire to propagate its actions. (Rees in OFB VI, 202&ndash3)
This physiological stratum of Bacon's natural philosophy was influenced by his semi-Paracelsian cosmology (on Paracelsus see Müller-Jahncke 1985, 67&ndash88), which Graham Rees (Rees and Upton 1984, 20&ndash1) has reconstructed from the extant parts of the Instauratio Magna. Detailed consideration therefore has to be given to Bacon's theory of the &lsquoquaternions&rsquo.
Bacon's speculative system is a hybrid based on different sources which provided him with seminal ideas: e.g., atomism, Aristotelianism, Arabic astronomy, Copernican theory, Galileo's discoveries, the works of Paracelsus, and Gilbert. In his theory he combines astronomy, referring to Alpetragius (see Dijksterhuis 1956, 237&ndash43 Rees and Upton 1984, 26 Gaukroger, 2001, 172&ndash5 and see Grant 1994, 533&ndash66, for discussion of the cosmology of Alpetragius), and chemistry (Rees 1975a, 84&ndash5):
[i]t was partly designed to fit a kinematic skeleton and explain, in general terms, the irregularities of planetary motion as consequences of the chemical constitution of the universe. (Rees 1975b, 94)
Bacon had no explanation for the planetary retrogressions and saw the universe as a finite and geocentric plenum, in which the earth consists of the two forms of matter (tangible and pneumatic). The earth has a tangible inside and is in touch with the surrounding universe, but through an intermediate zone. This zone exists between the earth's crust and the pure pneumatic heavens it reaches some miles into the crust and some miles into air. In this zone, pneumatic matter mixes with tangible matter, thus producing &lsquoattached spirits&rsquo, which must be distinguished from &lsquofree spirits&rsquo outside tangible bodies. Bacon's four kinds of free spirits are relevant for his &lsquoquaternion theory&rsquo:
|&ndash air||&ndash ether|
|&ndash terrestrial fire||&ndash sidereal fire|
The planets move around the earth in the ether (a tenuous kind of air), which belongs to the &lsquomercury quaternion&rsquo: it includes watery bodies and mercury. Terrestrial fire is a weakened form of sidereal fire. It is related to oily substances and sulphur, and constitutes the &lsquosulphur quaternion&rsquo. The two quaternions oppose each other: air/ether vs. fire/sidereal fire. Air and ether loose power when terrestrial and sidereal fires grow more energetic&mdashBacon's sulphur and mercury are not principles in the sense of Paracelsus, but simply natural substances. The Paracelsian principle of salt is excluded by Bacon and the substance, which plays a role only in the sublunary realm, is for him a compound of natural sulphur and mercury (Rees and Upton 1984, 25).
Bacon used his quaternion theory for his cosmology, which differs greatly from other contemporary systems (Rees 2000, 68):
- the diurnal motion turns the heavens about the earth towards the west
- under powerful sidereal fire (i.e., principle of celestial motion) the motion is swift: the revolution of the stars takes place in twenty-four hours
- under weaker sidereal fire&mdashnearer to the earth&mdashplanets move more slowly and more erratic.
Bacon, who tried to conceive of a unified physics, rejected different modes of motion in the superlunary and in the sublunary world (Bacon I , 329). He did not believe in the existence of the (crystalline) spheres nor in the macrocosm-microcosm analogy. He revised Paracelsian ideas thoroughly. He rejected the grounding of his theories in Scripture and paid no attention at all to Cabbalistic and Hermetic tendencies (Rees 1975b, 90&ndash1). But he extended the explanatory powers of the quaternions to earthly phenomena such as wind and tides.
Bacon's two systems were closely connected:
System 1: (The Two Quaternions) explained and comprised the cosmological aspect of his natural philosophy. System 2: (Theory of Matter) explained terrestrial nature, that is, it &ldquodealt with the manifold changes in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms of the frontier zone between the celestial heavens and the Earth's interior&rdquo (Rees 1996, 130 the two tables are taken from Rees).
System 2 depends on System 1, since explanations for terrestrial things were subordinated to explanations of the cosmological level. The table of System 2 shows Bacon's matter theory. His quaternion theory is relevant for System 1. System 2 is explained in terms of &lsquointermediates&rsquo, which combine the qualities of the items in one quaternion with their opposites in the other.
Bacon's system is built in a clear symmetrical way: each quaternion has four segments, together eight and there are four types of intermediates. Thus, the system distinguishes twelve segments in all. He wanted to explain all natural phenomena by means of this apparatus:
|Sulphur Quaternion||Mercury Quaternion|
|Tangible Substances (With Attached Spirits)||Sulphur (subterranean)||Mercury (subterranean)|
|Oil and oily inflammable substances (terrestrial)||Water and &lsquocrude&rsquo non-inflammable substances (terrestrial)|
|Pneumatic Substances||Terrestrial fire (sublunary)||Air (sublunary)|
|Sidereal fire (planets)||Ether (medium of the planets)|
|Sulphur Quaternion||Intermediates||Mercury Quaternion|
|Tangible Substances (with attached spirits)||Sulphur (subterranean)||Salts (subterranean and in organic beings)||Mercury (subterranean)|
|Oil and oily inflammable substances (terrestrial)||Juices of animals and plants||Water and &lsquocrude&rsquo non-inflammable substances (terrestrial)|
|Pneumatic substances||Terrestrial fire (sublunary)||Attached animate and inanimate spirits (in tangible bodies)||Air (sublunary)|
|Sidereal fire (planets)||Heaven of the fixed stars||Ether (medium of planets)|
There are two principal intermediates:
|The fire-air intermediates|
|&lsquoattached&rsquo animate spirits||inanimate spirits|
|only in living bodies||in all tangible bodies (including living bodies)|
Bacon's bi-quaternion theory necessarily refers to the sublunary as well as to the superlunary world. Although the quaternion theory is first mentioned in Thema Coeli (1612 see Bacon V , 547&ndash59), he provides a summary in his Novum Organum (Bacon II , 50):
it has not been ill observed by the chemists in their triad of first principles, that sulphur and mercury run through the whole universe &hellip in these two one of the most general consents in nature does seem to be observable. For there is consent between sulphur, oil and greasy exhalation, flame, and perhaps the body of a star. So is there between mercury, water and watery vapors, air, and perhaps the pure and intersiderial ether. Yet these two quaternions or great tribes of things (each within its own limits) differ immensely in quantity of matter and density, but agree very well in configuration. (Bacon IV , 242&ndash3 see also V , 205&ndash6 for tables of the two quaternions and Bacon's theory of matter see Rees 1996, 126, 137 Rees 2000, 68&ndash9)
Bacon regarded his cosmological worldview as a system of anticipations, which was open to revision in light of further scientific results based on the inductive method (Rees 1975b, 171). It was primarily a qualitative system, standing aside from both mathematical astronomers and Paracelsian chemists. It thus emphasized the priority which he gave to physics over mathematics in his general system of the sciences.
Bacon's two quaternions and his matter theory provide a speculative framework for his thought, which was open to the future acquisition of knowledge and its technical application. His Nova Atlantis can be understood as a text which occupies an intermediate position between his theory of induction and his speculative philosophy (Klein 2003c Price 2002).
It is important to bear in mind that Bacon's speculative system was his way out of a dilemma which had made it impossible for him to finish his Instauratio Magna. His turn towards speculation can only be interpreted as an intellectual anticipation during an intermediate phase of the history of science, when a gigantic amount of research work was still to be accomplished, so that empirical theories could neither be established nor sufficiently guaranteed. Speculation in Bacon's sense can therefore be seen as a preliminary means of explaining the secrets of nature until methodical research has caught up with our speculations. The speculative stance remains a relative and intermediate procedure for the &lsquoman of science&rsquo.
4. Bacon Exenterates a Chicken 1626
While Galileo was in trouble with the religious courts in Rome, the same English lawyer who published New Atlantis in 1624, Francis Bacon, was working out how to practice what he preached. It was time for him to perform the first experiment, to test some idea about nature. For as well as being remembered for pioneering rules about how science might be done, no particular branch of it, but the value of testing the early hunch of a new idea, he is also remembered for actually performing the first experiment. In New Atlantis he argued that as much background influence as possible should be put to one side so that the experiment concentrated on one single thing at a time. And this is what he did: when the chance came, he took it.
Sir Francis Bacon by Pourbus
Bacon had been brought up to believe that faith and reason were part of day-to-day religious doctrine and gladly accepted that any new understanding was considered by the Church to be part of its work. To move knowledge forward he was trying to devise a system of finding out new explanations, a method that others would follow and find useful to work with. If everyone could explore the issues in a compatible way, learn to speak the same methodological language, then problems about nature might be solved more accurately and quickly. The answers might then start to fit together and present a more meaningful picture. He was thinking about a process by which ideas could be discovered, rather than about a particular discovery, a scientific method that could be accepted as an authentic way of finding some truth about the nature of life.
He believed that this was more important than the religious way of life but he received a major set-back in putting these views forward to the public. In 1621 he was charged with corruption and imprisoned in the Tower of London to await King James’ pleasure. His wrong-doings were not for any errors in his scientific work but for the bribes he had accepted as Lord Chancellor, and he chose the easiest way out by pleading guilty before Parliament: “My Lords, it is my act, my hand and my heart. I beseech your lordships to be merciful to a broken reed.” The quieter way of life that followed gave Bacon time to think through and develop his emerging ideas of how to do science, how to get to know the mysteries and questions of the natural world and how they might be understood.
The story goes that one winter morning in 1626, Bacon and his friend the King’s doctor set off together on a mission that was going to change the course of human history. Their horse-drawn carriage went up past The Angel out of London into the countryside, along the Great North Road to Highgate. The coach stopped outside a crumbling old cottage and the two men climbed down onto the frozen mud. They went into the building where an old woman was trying to warm herself by the fire. It was close to the spot where Dick Whittington looked out over London, and at around the same time.
Like her visitors, the old woman was shivering with the cold, but pleased to sell two of her fowls. The two customers made the woman exenterate the birds and the experiment began. Bacon took one of the birds outside, picked up several handfuls of snow and stuffed the frozen water into the carcass for it to be left out in the cold. The other was left in the cottage by the warm fire, where it soon became a festering mass of putrefying flesh and bugs. From the simple comparison of the different conditions for the same object the experiment tested Bacon’s theory of how meat decays and how it can be preserved.
His idea, or theory, was that meat decays by reacting with some internal organic substances. The experiment controlled the temperature, making it too cold for organic reactions. The meat was preserved.
By creating a theory, comparing options, eliminating other explanations, he found a solution to the problem or at least another way of understanding it. A week later Bacon reported that “as for the experiment itself, it succeeded excellently well, but in the journey from London to Highgate I was taken with such a fit of casting as I know not whether it was the Stone, or some surfeit or cold, or indeed a touch of them all three.” The chill had quickly turned into pneumonia and Bacon died the following week. His private secretary, Thomas Meautys, saw to it that Bacon’s Natural History, Sylva Sylvarum and his New Atlantis, were both published before the end of the year.
This way of investigating nature lived on and talk of Bacon’s work stimulated a small group of men from humble families in eastern counties, and as we shall see, they were all studying at Cambridge during the early 1660s. There was no doubt that their work with science was beginning to challenge the authorized explanations of how to account for living things. Their experimental results were being published as new facts and this tempted the dons to debate how to bring up the questions about the origin and diversity of life in nature: where biodiversity came from. But being ordained as priests they had to decide whether or not to stick to their guns and defend their beliefs against such doubts. Even after thinking, arguing and teaching about new topics such as planets in motion around the sun and the time needed for other changes that had happened in the world, it was important that Bacon’s example of reason by experiment was understood and followed.
More optimistic changes at the start of the eighteenth century began to take over and drive society more quickly, enabling politicians to achieve their new social ambitions. Not only were the scientific developments sensible and more popular than the older life styles but they also seemed to work. Science began to take on a more important role as it established new practices in different fields but it continued to be no threat for the established role of the church as it was still being done within the style of God’s design and the way people understood the nature of life itself.
Francis Bacon and Science
We Have The Technology
Bacon produced a large body of scientific work. His science produced no world-changing results, but his guidelines for how science should be carried out did.
It was obvious to Bacon that Europe in the early 1600s enjoyed significantly better technology than the classical world had. For example, the printing press had democratized knowledge gunpowder had made armies much more powerful and the magnetic compass had facilitated better navigation and the discovery of the Americas.
He found it monumentally frustrating that people’s intellectual understanding of the world had not progressed beyond that of the Ancient Greeks’.
The Scientific New World
The image below is taken from Instauratio magna, a multi-volume work in which Bacon explained how new knowledge in all human activities could be discovered.
The image conveys an important symbolic message from Bacon to his readers.
Part of the title page illustration of Instauratio magna.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Interrogating Nature to Discover her Laws
Bacon believed that Nature never tells you her secrets easily. (He visualized Nature as female.)
Hard work and vigorous interrogation are required. You need to devise experiments that ask Nature the right questions. Only then might she reveal the truth to you.
She would not reveal the truth to philosophers such as Aristotle, who thought they could sit in a chair or lie on a beach and coax her into revealing her secrets simply by thinking. You needed to gather solid data first to guide your thinking.
The Triumph of Bacon’s Ideas
The man who epitomized the success of Bacon’s inductive method was born nine months after Bacon died.
Boyle was a Baconian. He believed that amassing data by experiment would allow him to discover new laws of Nature. And he was right. Using the inductive method he tore away the alchemists’ bonds of mysticism, unleashing chemistry as a genuine quantitative science.
With the advantage of greater hands-on laboratory experience that Bacon, Boyle was able to enhance Bacon’s method. Boyle was the first person to write specific experimental guidance for other scientists, emphasizing the importance of achieving reliable, repeatable results.
In 1660 Boyle helped found the Royal Society, the oldest scientific society in existence.
History of the Royal Society. The frontispiece features William Brouncker, the founding President of the Royal Society and Francis Bacon seated alongside a bust of Charles II, the founding King.
The esteem Bacon was held in by the society is shown by his appearance on the frontispiece (see image) of the 1702 edition of History of the Royal Society by Thomas Sprat, published 76 years after Bacon’s death.
Of course, while Bacon was writing in England about the importance of data and observations, Galileo in Italy had actually gathered data and observations, producing new ideas that were to replace Aristotle’s physics and astronomy. Galileo’s work was also an inspiration to Boyle. In England itself, William Gilbert had already practiced what Bacon preached, discovering by experiment in 1600 that our planet acts like a giant magnet.
Likewise Johannes Kepler in Bohemia had discovered the laws of planetary motion using the superb planet data gathered by Tycho Brahe. Kepler’s laws revealed, among other things, that the earth and other planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun.
Bacon, Galileo, Gilbert, and Kepler probably did more than anyone else to fatally undermine Aristole’s natural philosophy and begin a new age of rational science.
The Crucial Experiment
In Novum Organum Bacon considered the instantia crucis – the crucial example. In a situation where there are competing theories, this would be the example that proves which theory is true. Obviously, a crucial example is highly desirable in science.
In the 1660s Bacon’s idea was developed into the experimentum crucis – the crucial experiment – by Robert Boyle and/or Robert Hooke.
In 1672 Isaac Newton performed the most famous crucial experiment of all, when he used a glass prism to split sunlight into a rainbow of colors and then recombined these colors into white light using a second prism. This proved that sunlight consists of light of different colors which have different refractive indexes.
Newton’s crucial experiment with two prisms. The result absolutely demolished competing theories, such as the proposal that glass added the colors to sunlight.
The Scientific Method Today – The Hypothetico Deductive Method
Bacon’s ideas are still used today – the vital importance to science of experimental data and observations are now beyond doubt.
Nowadays many scientists use the Hypothetico Deductive Method. The basis of this method is that a scientist states a hypothesis and then uses data to establish whether the hypothesis is true or false. When using this method it is important that the hypothesis is written in such a way that clear criteria are stated to establish its falseness.
The Francis Bacon Award in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Offered biennially in the amount of $20,000, the Francis Bacon Award is bestowed on an outstanding scholar whose work continues to have a substantial impact in the history of science, the history of technology, or historically-engaged philosophy of science. The winner of the Bacon Award is invited to spend one term (10 weeks) as a Visiting Professor at Caltech to teach and lead a biennial conference that brings together the best younger and established scholars in the area of the Bacon Visiting Professor's specific interests.
HSS is pleased to announce the selection of John Krige as the 2020 Francis Bacon Award recipient. Krige, the Kranzberg Professor in the School of History and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, studies the intersection between science, technology, and foreign policy. The main focus of his research has been on the development of civilian nuclear and space programs in Western Europe and the United States during the Cold War. Krige has written several books, including How Knowledge Moves--Writing the Transnational History of Science and Technology , (University of Chicago Press, 2019).
History Of Life And Death
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, QC, was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.
Bacon has been called Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, QC, was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.
Bacon has been called the creator of empiricism. His works established and popularised inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method, or simply the scientific method. His demand for a planned procedure of investigating all things natural marked a new turn in the rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, much of which still surrounds conceptions of proper methodology today.
Bacon was knighted in 1603 (being the first scientist to receive a knighthood), and created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Alban in 1621.
Bacon's ideas were influential in the 1630s and 1650s among scholars, in particular Sir Thomas Browne, who in his encyclopaedia Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646–72) frequently adheres to a Baconian approach to his scientific enquiries. During the Restoration, Bacon was commonly invoked as a guiding spirit of the Royal Society founded under Charles II in 1660. During the 18th-century French Enlightenment, Bacon's non-metaphysical approach to science became more influential than the dualism of his French contemporary René Descartes, and was associated with criticism of the ancien regime. In 1733 Voltaire "introduced him as the "father" of the scientific method" to a French audience, an understanding which had become widespread by 1750. In the 19th century his emphasis on induction was revived and developed by William Whewell, among others. He has been reputed as the "Father of Experimental Science".
Bacon is also considered because of his introduction of science in England to be the philosophical influence behind the dawning of the Industrial age. In his works, Bacon stated "the explanation of which things, and of the true relation between the nature of things and the nature of the mind, is as the strewing and decoration of the bridal chamber of the mind and the universe, out of which marriage let us hope there may spring helps to man, and a line and race of inventions that may in some degree subdue and overcome the necessities and miseries of humanity" meaning he hoped that through the understanding of mechanics using the Scientific Method, society will create more mechanical inventions that will to an extent solve the problems of Man. This changed the course of science in history, from a experimental state, as it was found in medieval ages, to an experimental and inventive state – that would have eventually led to the mechanical inventions that made possible the Industrial Revolutions of the following centuries.
He also wrote a long treatise on Medicine, History of Life and Death, with natural and experimental observations for the prolongation of life.
For one of his biographers, the historian William Hepworth Dixon, Bacon's influence in modern world is so great that every man who rides in a train, sends a telegram, follows a steam plough, sits in an easy chair, crosses the channel or the Atlantic, eats a good dinner, enjoys a beautiful garden, or undergoes a painless surgical operation, owes him something.
Francis Bacon's philosophy is displayed in the vast and varied writings he left, which might be divided in three great branches:
Scientific works – in which his ideas for an universal reform of knowledge into scientific methodology and the improvement of mankind's state using the Scientific method are presented.
Literary works – in which he presents his moral philosophy.
Juridical works – in which his reforms in English Law are proposed.
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
After his death, Bacon's London studio was moved to Dublin. Now, visitors to this space can view every paper, photo, book, and piece of furniture just as it was during the artist's life.
Due to their intensely emotional subject matter and cutting-edge style, Bacon's art remains highly influential today. His portfolio of dramatic, existentialist painting continues to be seen as a cornerstone of postwar art&mdashreflecting the trauma many people felt during the era.