Francis Bacon


Francis Bacon was a famous English essayist, lawyer, philosopher and statesman who had a major influence on the philosophy of science. He was born in London in 1561 and died in 1626. At 12 years of age, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. At age 15, he entered Gray's Inn to pursue a career in law. Bacon was first elected to Parliament in 1584. His opposition to royal tax measures would probably have brought an end to his political advancement, but he had the support of the earl of Essex, whose prosecution for treason he later managed. Knighted (1603) after the succession of James I, Bacon became solicitor-general (1609), attorney-general (1613), lord keeper of the great seal (1617), and lord chancellor (1618); he was also created Baron Verulam (1618), and Viscount St. Albans (1621). Bacon retained James's favor by steadfast defense of royal prerogative, but in 1621 he was found guilty of accepting bribes and was removed from his offices.

Retiring to Gorhambury, he devoted himself to writing and scientific work. Philosophically, Bacon sought to purge the mind of what he called "idols," or tendencies to error. These came from human nature ("idols of the tribe"), from individual temperament and experience ("idols of the cave"), from language ("idols of the market place"), and from false philosophies ("idols of the theater"). Of earlier philosophers, he particularly criticized Aristotle.

Bacon planned a large work, the Instauratio Magna (Great Restoration), setting forth his concepts for the restoration of humankind to mastery over nature but only completed only two parts. Although Bacon was not a great scientist, he gave impetus to the development of modern inductive science. In the 18th century, Voltaire and Diderot considered him the father of modern science. Bacon's works include his Essays (1597-1625) and The New Atlantis (1627).

On a more personal note, he was apparently erotically attracted to young male Welsh servants. This information appeared in writings but his contemporaries but did not appear in modern biographies until recently.

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