Sir Francis Bacon’s Fascinating Life and Political Career, with Will Durant

“Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or thought of the course of nature; beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.”

Francis Bacon, Novum Oranum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 1.


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Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount Saint Alban, (22 January 1561 — 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and father of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. Although his political career ended in disgrace, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method and pioneer in the scientific revolution.

Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. His works established and popularized 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. His dedication probably led to his death, bringing him into a rare historical group of scientists who were killed by their own experiments.

Bacon was knighted in 1603, and created both the Baron Verulam in 1618, and the Viscount St Alban in 1621; as he died without heirs both peerages became extinct upon his death. He famously died of pneumonia contracted while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat.

“Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed…”

“Now the empire of man over things depends wholly on the arts and sciences. For we cannot command nature except by obeying her.”

Francis Bacon, Novum Oranum (1620), Book 1, Aphorisms 3 and 129

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