The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science

By Peter Medawar | Go to book overview
Save to active project

10
On 'the effecting of all things possible'

1

My title, or, if you like, my motto, comes from Francis Bacon New Atlantis, published in 1627. The New Atlantis was Bacon's dream of what the world might have been, and might still become, if human knowledge were directed towards improving the worldly condition of man. It makes a rather strange impression nowadays, and very few people bother with it who are not interested either in Bacon himself, or in the flux of seventeenth- century opinion or the ideology of Utopias. We shall not read it for its sociological insights, which are non-existent, nor as science fiction, because it has a general air of implausibility; but there is one high poetic fancy in the New Atlantis that stays in the mind after all its fancies and inventions have been forgotten. In the New Atlantis, an island kingdom lying in very distant seas, the only commodity of external trade is -- light: Bacon's own special light, the light of understanding. The Merchants of Light who carry out its business are members of a society or order of philosophers who between them make up (so their spokesman declares) 'the noblest foundation that ever was upon the earth'. 'The end of our foundation', the spokesman goes on to say, 'is the knowledge of causes and the secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.' You will see later on why I chose this motto.


2

My purpose is to draw certain parallels between the spiritual or philosophic condition of thoughtful people in the seventeenth

-104-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 236

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?