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Roger Bacon

c.1214-1292. English Franciscan philosopher and scientist. He studied at Oxford and taught at Paris, where he was among the first to lecture on the books of Aristotle. Returning to Oxford, he became familiar with the work of Robert Grosseteste.* Bacon joined the Franciscans about 1257 so that he might secure the experimental equipment he needed. He also became involved with the followers of Joachim of Fiore* and consequently was sent to Paris and forbidden to circulate his writings. Pope Clement IV, learning of Bacon's attempt to construct a universal science, sent for his encyclopedia (1266). Bacon did not have the work ready, but in the short space of eighteen months he composed a preliminary draft, his Opus Maius. The pope died before anything could come of this contact, but Bacon was allowed to return to Oxford where he continued his scholarship until his death.

Many have believed that his fame rested on his emphasizing the need for experimental science. This was probably overstated because, in addition to observation, he believed that a study of the Bible in the original languages would help one to understand nature better. Bacon surpassed his contemporaries in his knowledge of lenses and mirrors. He even foresaw the practical application of science in various ways.

A.C. Little (ed.), Roger Bacon: Essays...on the Occasion of... the Seventh Centenary of his Birth (1914); L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, vol. 2 (1929), pp. 616-91; S.C. Easton, Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science (1952).

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