- Bacon, Francis
- (1561-1626)English philosopher, essayist, and royal official, knighted by King James VI and eventually raised to the peerage. The son of a high-ranking official of Queen Elizabeth I, under James VI he rose to be lord chancellor, the highest position in the state. Although Bacon was avid for high office and its social and financial rewards, he was also deeply committed to the improvement of education, especially the study of the natural sciences. During his studies at Cambridge University (1573-1575), he became convinced that the traditional scientific method of Aristotle was worthless and that a new science founded on a new scientific method must replace it. His book The Advancement of Learning (1603) set forth this program of drastic educational and scientific reform.Despite his many political duties, Bacon continued to publish on this theme, attempting without great success to clarify his concept of a new intellectual method. He projected a total reconstruction of science, a work called Instauratio magna / The Great New Beginning (1620); but he completed only a few fragments, notably the introductory section, also called Instauratio magna, and a sketch of his new logic, the Novum Organum. He also realized that one of the goals of a new natural science should be the application of scientific knowledge to improving the quality of human life, an idea developed in his scientific utopia, The New Atlantis. Bacon's interests were not limited to natural science. His best known literary work is his Essays, published between 1597 and 1625, which dealt with social and ethical questions and introduced into English literature the informal essay pioneered in French literature by Michel de Montaigne. Bacon also wrote an influential biography of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Although he was educated in the humanistic learning of the Renaissance, in many respects Bacon represents a passage from Renaissance to post-Renaissance thought. He no longer shared the Renaissance conviction that the improvement of learning depended on rediscovery of lost classical learning but instead declared the contribution of ancient philosophical and scientific knowledge to be exhausted. He linked the further advancement of humanity to his program of a new learning based on natural science.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.