Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon Picture

Esteemed British statesman and philosopher, Francis Bacon, was born on January 22, 1561, in York House, London. Bacon was born in to nobility, his father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, served as the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Francis was the youngest child of Lord Nicholas and Lady Anne. At the age of 12, Bacon was accepted into the Trinity College in 1573. He completed his education at Trinity College in 1575, and enrolled himself at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn to pursue legal education. During his years at Gray’s Inn, Bacon began to show an inclination towards the new Renaissance Humanism rather than the more prevalent ideologies of Aristotelianism and Scholasticism.

In 1576, Bacon journeyed to France as a part of the English ambassador, Sir Amyas Paulet’s entourage, however, he had to return to England after two and a half years, upon news of his father’s sudden demise. This was a huge setback for an 18 year old Francis, as he now had very few financial means to sustain his lifestyle. Bacon struggled to make ends meet, but fortunately, in 1581, he was given a position for Cornwall in the House of Commons. He returned to Gray’s Inn and continued with his education, and in 1582, he received the title of a barrister. Bacon’s political career shot up in 1584, when he composed his first political memorandum, ‘A Letter of Advice to Queen Elizabeth’. Bacon remained a notable member of the parliament for almost four decades, he was extremely prominent at the Royal court, actively taking part in all legal and political activities. Bacon used his free time to tend to his philosophical passions, and he composed several works on politics, legalities, knowledge and science. He published his first work in 1597, a collection of essays on politics. In 1605, he published ‘The Advancement of Learning’ to garner support for the study of science, however, the book did not reap much success. It took him four years to give up on his attempts to rally support for political and scientific education, and in 1609, he published ‘On the Wisdom of the Ancients’, his research of ancient mythology.

Upon James I’s ascension to the throne, Francis Bacon was made a knight. In 1607, the title of solicitor general was bestowed upon him, and six years later, he was made attorney general. His career at court reached new heights, and in 1616, he was made a member of the Privy Council. A year later, in 1617, Bacon was made the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, a position his father had once held. And in 1618, he even transcended his father’s achievements upon his promotion to the grandest political office in the royal court, the Lord Chancellor. Meanwhile, he also contributed to the evolution of philosophical science, he resumed working on his analysis on science, and in 1620, he published the first volume of ‘Novum Organum Scientiarum’, his much celebrated and widely discussed work. In 1622, he was commissioned by Prince Charles to write a historical piece, which was published as ‘The History of Henry VII’. During the same year, he also released ‘Historia Ventorum’ and ‘Historia Vitae et Mortis’.

In 1621, Bacon held the title of Viscount St. Albans. However, the same year, his political career became the target of various controversies as his rivals accused him of spreading corruption in Parliament by accepting bribes. Bacon’s case was tried, and after confessing his crimes, he was sentenced to the Tower of London and fined a grand amount of 40,000 pounds. Fortunately, he was released after four days, but he had to sacrifice his reputation and his position in the Parliament that he had held for four decades.

The distressing scandal had a mentally agonizing effect on his health, and at the age of sixty, Bacon retired and settled in St. Albans. Free from the strain of work, Francis now had the time to fuel his passion for scientific philosophy. Francis was determined, more than ever, to leave his mark in the discipline of natural philosophy. Bacon established his own approach of researching scientific phenomena. He emphasised the need of first hand observations and experimentation, and developed the scientific method of gathering, analysing and experimenting data, which he believed to be immensely beneficial in aiding human kind when dealing with complex phenomenon. In 1623, he released another book on scientific reform, entitled ‘De Augmentis Scientarium’. A year later, he published two more books, ‘The New Atlantis’ and ‘Apothegms’. His last work, ‘Sylva Sylvarium’, was published in 1627. He passed away on April 9, 1626, after being inflicted with a severe cold while experimenting with ice.

Today, Bacon’s literary contributions are regarded as a core stimulant in the evolution of natural philosophy and scientific methodology. Bacon’s struggle to do away with the antiquated systems is recurrent in all his works, and his efforts to develop an organised system of obtaining and interpreting data have played a vital role in advancing human understanding.

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