A retrospective: Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, was born in London to Sir Nicholas and Anne Bacon, who were an extremely wealthy and influential family with Nicholas being the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, an important government position. Francis was home tutored until he turned twelve years old, and he then entered the University of Cambridge where he studied grammar, logic, and rhetoric. At the time the sciences were majorly influenced by the work of Aristotle, and Francis considered it pointless and directionless. He was into practical science, not theoretical science.

His aim was to go in a new direction with science and turn people away from Aristotle and Plato’s archaic thinking, and whilst their ideas were based on logic and philosophy, he wished to create a new body of research which became known as the scientific method. This involved research, preparation, experiments and observations. Whilst being extremely religious, unlike other scientists of his era he believed that science and religion should be kept separate and he wanted to understand the true nature of the universe.

It frustrated Francis that society still based their scientific knowledge on ideas from two thousand years previous, and figured it was time to encourage exploration, experimentation, and the search for real, repeatable knowledge. He chose to adopt the inductive scientific theory which involved dealing with facts that led to a rule, as opposed to the Aristotle’s deductive method which involved theorising first. Francis believed that nature was hard work, and you had to think of the right questions to ask to hopefully get the truth.

“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” – Sir Francis Bacon

Francis is claimed to be the father of empiricism, which is the study of knowledge and empirical evidence, and he’s extremely lucky that he lived in England, as he was born around the same time as Galileo and as we well know, he was charged with heresy in Italy because he exposed the truth over tradition.

In 1597 he became Queen Elizabeth I official legal council, and in 1603 when James I succeeded Elizabeth, he was knighted and became Sir Francis Bacon. In 1620, his book, Novum Organum, became the Baconian Method of science. Sir Francis Bacon died aged 65 on April 9, 1626 of pneumonia, and his legacy remains to this day in the scientific method.