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Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), Viscount St. Alban

Studies and marriage

Sir Francis Bacon was an English Renaissance philosopher of empiricism, a statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, and author. He advocated, practised and established the scientific method by his works. Bacon contrasted the new approach of the development of science with that of the Middle Ages:

Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world.

In 1576 he went abroad with the English ambassador at Paris. In the next three years he visited Blois, Poitiers, Tours, Italy, and Spain. During his travels, young Bacon studied language, statecraft, and civil law while performing routine diplomatic tasks.

When his father suddenly died in 1579, Bacon was prompted to return to England and got large debts. In 1604, when forty-five, he married Alice Barnham.

Bacon's public career ended in disgrace in 1621. The disgraced viscount devoted himself to study and writing until he died in 1626. After stuffing a fowl with snow, he contracted pneumonia, which proved fatal.

Works and Influence

Bacon's works include his Essays, as well as the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae, all published in 1597. His famous aphorism, "knowledge is power", is found in the Meditations. He published The Proficience and Advancement of Learning in 1605.

He also left a fragmentary and incomplete Instauratio magna (Great Renewal). In it, he cites three world-changing inventions:

"Printing, gunpowder and the compass: These three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world."

In 1623, Bacon expressed his aspirations and ideals in New Atlantis (published in 1627). [Compare]. He envisioned a land where there would be greater rights for women, the abolition of slavery, elimination of debtors' prisons, separation of church and state, and freedom of religious and political expression.

Bacon's ideas about the improvement of the human lot were influential in the 1630s and 1650s. Francis Bacon thus came to play a leading role in creating the British colonies.

The Novum Organum is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon published in 1620. In Novum Organum, Bacon detailed a new system of logic.

Some think that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare, and some think not. [Compare Sir Henry Neville]

Highlights from his Essays

To distribute this and that all right helps us to save time and spare assets. He that merely chops up things, may not know what to do next. Then mishmash can set in.

Better be more concerned over what is about to happen or more or less likely to happen. Decent prognosis work can be an immense help in mastering life to one's maturing and revolving benefit. [The Source: Francis Bacon, "Of Dispatch"]

Fame looks like a relic of past rebelliousness. To the degree that plenty of fame is a mark of troubles one way or another, suppressing fame severely may not work. Suppression in itself is at any rate dubious.

If fame is held in check - i.e. carefully controlled - it can remain as long-lived asset. So, fame, and also very carefully checked and well controlled fame, might be called the daughter of plots and forewarner of troubles ahead too.

One should know when to stop, as that knowledge helps one to remain in control, and is a major boon for mankind. [Source: Francis Bacon, Of Seditions]

When I was in France, I heard that the Queen Mother caused the King her husband's nativity to be calculated, under a false name. The astrologer gave a judgment, he should be killed in a duel. The queen laughed at it, thinking her husband to be above challenges and duels. But he was slain on a course at tilt [a contest on horseback in which two combatants charging with lances or similar weapons try to unhorse each other]. The splinters of the staff of Montgomery went in at his beaver [helmet visor protecting the lower part of the face]. [Source: Francis Bacon, Of Prophecies, abstracted]

Bacon Quotations

Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible. [Francis Bacon]

Houses are built to live in, and not to look on: therefore let use be preferred before uniformity, except where both may be had. [Francis Bacon]

He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other. [Francis Bacon]

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper. [Francis Bacon]

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator. [Francis Bacon]

Read not to contradict and confute, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. [Francis Bacon]

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. [Francis Bacon]

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds, perhaps. [With Francis Bacon]

The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express. [Francis Bacon - The sense and experience of the beautiful is deep within ourselves. TK]

The genius, wit, and the spirit of a nation are discovered by their proverbs. [Francis Bacon - although a lot a proverbs are shareware among many nations.]

Contents


Sir Francis Bacon, an essay, Literature  

Bacon, Sir Francis. The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St. Albans. On-line Etext. Urbana, IL: The Gutenberg Project, 2009.

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