English philosopher, politician, and writer, a founder of modern scientific research. His works include Essays ( 1597, revised and augmented 1612 and 1625), characterized by pith and brevity; The Advancement of Learning ( 1605), a seminal work discussing scientific method; Novum Organum ( 1620), in which he redefined the task of natural science, seeing it as a means of empirical discovery and a method of increasing human power over nature; and The New Atlantis ( 1626), describing a utopian state in which scientific knowledge is systematically sought and exploited. He was briefly Lord Chancellor in 1618 but lost his post through corruption.
Bacon was born in London, studied law at Cambridge from 1573, was part of the embassy in France until 1579, and became a member of Parliament in 1584. In 1596 he became a Queen's Counsel. He was the nephew of Queen Elizabeth's adviser Lord Burghley, but turned against him when he failed to provide Bacon with patronage and attached himself to Burghley's rival, the Earl of Essex. He subsequently helped secure the execution of the Earl of Essex as a traitor in 1601. Bacon was accused of ingratitude to his patron, but he defended himself in Apology ( 1604), arguing that his first loyalty was to his sovereign. In 1618, having risen to Lord Chancellor, he confessed to bribe-taking, was fined £40,000 (which was later remitted by the king), and spent four days in the Tower of London. From then on he devoted himself to science and writing, in both Latin and English.
Satirist Alexander Pope called Bacon 'the wisest, brightest, and meanest of mankind'. Knighted on the accession of James I in 1603, he became Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St Albans in 1621. His writings helped to inspire the founding of the Royal Society. The Baconian theory, originated by James Willmot in 1785, suggesting that the works of Shakespeare were written by Bacon, is not taken seriously by scholars.
He died after catching a cold while stuffing a chicken with snow in an early experiment in refrigeration.
In philosophy, Bacon's work on scientific method has been influential. At Cambridge he had found that the Aristotelian system taught at the time produced only verbal argument but no concrete results. He therefore decided that a new approach must be made to the whole problem of systematizing knowledge. A new instrument of thought, a 'novum organum', must be provided to replace the traditional organum (system) of Aristotle. So arose his great plan for the renewal of knowledge, the vast 'Instauratio Scientiarum', which he formed at an early age and sketched out in 1620 in the introduction to his Novum Organum. It was a grandiose scheme, of which only parts were completed.
First, there was to be a survey of existing human knowledge; the initial sketch of this was The Advancement of Learning, later revised and expanded in the Latin version, De Augmentis Scientiarum ( 1623). Second, there was to be a description of a new method of acquiring knowledge. The outline of this was the Novum Organum, which sets out the principles of the Baconian method: to discover the hidden, simple laws of the universe by gathering scientific data, and, by eliminating all its incidental attributes, to arrive at its essential causes. Bacon's scheme was to include a section assembling empirical data, another propounding solutions, and a final section extracting from these a new philosophy. Related to these projections is The New Atlantis, which, like Thomas More Utopia, embodies a description of an ideal commonwealth. This makes some remarkable predictions about scientific inventions, including a kind of telephone. Sylva Sylvarum ( 1627), on which Bacon was working at his death, dealt with natural history, and was also part of the 'Instauratio'.
Flemish humanist editor and printer, born near Ghent but active in France. While teaching in Lyons,