Francis Bacon

1561-1626. English statesman and philosopher of science. A versatile genius, he was distinguished in law, literature, philosophy, and science. His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, died when Francis was eighteen, leaving him virtually penniless since he was the youngest son. He then turned to a career in law and at the age of twenty-three gained a seat in the House of Commons. After holding a succession of political appointments he became lord chancellor under James I. His rise to power alienated men such as Sir Edward Coke, and this led to Bacon's indictment for accepting a bribe. He was found guilty and removed from his offices (1621). Bacon spent his remaining years writing books and devising schemes for the advancement of science. Among his works are Advancement of Learning, Essays, Novum Organum, and New Atlantis. Bacon emphasized the empirical approach to science and because of this he has been called “the Prophet of Modern Science.” The fact that these books appeared during the course of his busy life demonstrates that his interest in science was never entirely separate from his activities as a lawyer and statesman. He believed that science was necessary to improve the lot of mankind and that the state should finance this work. He was never able, however, to interest James I in this goal.

See F.H. Anderson, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (1948), and I. Levine, Francis Bacon, Viscount of St. Albans (1925).