Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
1561- Born at York House in London, the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord
Keeper of the Great Seal and Ann, second daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke.
1573- attends Trinity College, Cambridge.
o Education was mainly in traditional medieval curriculum: trivium, quadrivium
and philosophies though humanism changed this curriculum, emphasizing
practical problems at the expense of logical subtlety.
1581- sits for the first time in Parliament
1588- appointed to committee of lawyers to review existing statutes
1613- appointed Attorney General
1617- appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.
1618- becomes Lord Chancellor
1621- charged with twenty-three separate counts of corruption, spend time in the Tower
of London, declared unfit to hold future offices, almost lost his titles.
1626- Bacon dies; Sylva Sylvarum and New Atlantis published posthumously
Bacon did not propose an actual philosophy, but rather a method of developing
philosophy. He argued that although philosophy at the time used the deductive syllogism
to interpret nature, the philosopher should instead proceed through inductive reasoning
from fact to axiom to law. Before beginning this induction, the inquirer is to free his or
her mind from certain false notions or tendencies which distort the truth. These are called
"Idols" (idola), and are of four kinds:
"Idols of the Tribe" (idola tribus), which are common to the race;
"Idols of the Den" (idola specus), which are peculiar to the individual;
"Idols of the Marketplace" (idola fori), coming from the misuse of language; and
"Idols of the Theatre" (idola theatri), which result from an abuse of authority.
The end of induction is the discovery of forms, the ways in which natural phenomena
occur, the causes from which they proceed
Contemporary criticism concerns the shortcomings of his grand philosophical scheme.
Declared a new era in the history of humankind was at hand and that traditional
philosophy should be refuted.
Replaced contemplative science with an active or operative science.
o He was interested in works rather than words.
Like others he disliked Aristotle’s philosophy because it wasn’t practical.
His reputation was at its peak in the 17th and 18th centuries, when he was seen as the
originator of modern science and philosophy.
“A letter of Advice to the Queen” was his first political tract in which he warns of the
dangers of the Catholics and pondered political alliance with enemies of Spain.
Like many contemporary Englishmen he sought support for an English-Scottish alliance.
In this fictional writing Bacon is interested in the intersection of science and politics,
stressing practical application of philosophical ideas.
In “Of travel” he observes how meticulous sailors record observations on the sea but this
is not applied to the land.
o Thus, New Atlantis is written like a travel narrative.
o New Atlantis is fictional model of ideal travel narrative and ideal traveler.
Science is the central element of the ideal society.
Narrator sails from Peru for China and Japan
Winds keep them from journey, then they turn north; run out of food.
God shows them land.
Sailors are only given sixteen days unless they pass inspection
Bensalemites are concerned about sickness of the sailors (this is a central concern of the
Fruits used as preventative to infection.
Sailors are sent to Stranger’s House, a compound designed to ensure the cleanliness of
Bensalem- could derive from Hebrew of from Arabic.
o In Hebrew “ben” means ‘son’ or ‘offspring’ and “salem” is the early name for
Jerusalem, thus the city is somehow a descendant of the ideal Jerusalem, or a
o In Arabic, “ben” also means ‘son’ and “salem” means ‘safety’ or ‘peace.’ Thus
Bensalem is someone who has granted peace.
o Bensalem is also a man’s name in Arabicm which might suggest that Bacon is
playing with the similarity between “Salem” and “Solomon.”
The Bible credits Solomon as the builder of the first temple in Jerusalem,
and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power, but ultimately as
a king whose sin, including idolatry and turning away from God, leads to
the kingdom being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam.
Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends.
o Elsewhere in the text Bacon uses words which appear to be Arabic in structure, if
not in meaning.
Movement limited to within a mile and a half (karan) of the city’s walls.
Emphasis placed on the accumulation of knowledge and asking of questions.
o The first question the travelers ask of their host is the origin of their Christian
beliefs, revealing the primary position of Christianity in both cultures.
A miraculous column of light holds many of the people’s boat at sea twenty years after
the ascension of the Saviour.
o This is referred to as “thy Finger,” or the work of God.
o One of the people on these boats was “one of the wise men of the society of
Salomon’s House,” whose learning forms the basis of the island’s intellectual
o The column of light collapses, revealing a cedar box with a palm leaf attached.
The box contains a book and letter, each wrapped in “sindons of linen.”
The book contained all of the canonical books of Old and New testaments,
even the books that have yet to be written (this event is supposed to have
occurred in AD 49).
o Thus, one can see the primacy of the learned and textual as the foundation of this
o Also, Bensalem is somehow more directly connected to divine favor than perhaps
other manmade cities or cultures, getting its religion directly from a divine source.
o The letter reads:
I Bartholomew, a servant of the Highest, and Apostle of Jesus Christ, was
warned by an angel that appeared to me in a vision of glory, that I should
commit this ark to the floods of the sea. Therefore I do testify and declare
unto that people where God shall ordain this ark to come to land, that in
the same day is come unto them salvation and peace and good-will, from
the Father, and from the Lord Jesus.
o Bartholomew is the apostle credited with taking St. Matthew’s Gospel to the
o Additionally, the Bensalemites are given the gift of Tongues, because at this time
there were Hebrews, Persians, and Indians, besides the natives, living in the land.
Therefore each of them are able to read the Bible in his or her own language.
King Solamona, who reigned before the birth of Christ was the law giver to the people of
Bensalem, a reference to the Biblical Solomon who was a lawgiver, a person Bacon
admired because of his search for truth. In Bacon’s conception Solamona was concerned
with the joining of humanity and public policy together to make an ideal social order.
o Responds to China’s mistrust of foreigners (it makes them curious, ignorant and
foolish) foreigners to Bensalem are to be treated courteously.
o House of Salomon’s House is the central foundation of the social order. This
place is dedicated to the study of the works and creatures of God.
The name honors the historical king Solomon, while being a close
resemblance to the fictional Solamona.
o No sailing from Bensalem into other lands except for every twelfth year two ships
will be appointed for various voyages.
Each of these ships hold three Brethern from Salomon’s House, whose
sole object is to observe and report on the sciences, arts, manufacturing,
and inventions of the world.
Additionally these elders are to accumulate books and instruments to act
as records of the knowledge learned.
These brethren remain in the foreign lands as observers until the next
voyage in twelve years returns for them.
Thus, boats are not overladen with supplies as they are only concerned
with the commodity of God’s light, or divine knowledge.
Feast of the Family:
o Granted to any man that lives to see thirty of his descendents alive together and
all above three years old.
o Led by a Tirsan, who oversees the feast and gives out necessary laws for the
propagation of familial unity and peace.
o Names one man from amongst his sons to be his Son of the Vine.
o If a mother from whose body these descendants have come is still alive she is
given a special room at the feast where she sits but is not seen.
o Grapes in purple or greenish-yellow for male and female decendants respectively,
are given to the Son of the Vine.
o Tirsan sits alone at dinner.
o Never lasts over an hour and a half.
o Hymns about the glories of Adam, Noah, and Abraham (father of Human race,
father of human race after the flood, father of the faithful) are sung during the
Narrator is then led by Joabin, a nice breed of Jew, not like the spiteful, Christian-hating
kind the narrator assumes is familiar to his readers.
o Joabin considers Bensalem the virgin of the world.
o Marriage not used as a bargaining tool or negotiation strategy, but as a holy
sacrament of lasting significance.
o No polygamy.
o At least one month courtship/interview period.
o Must have parental consent.
o Because of hidden defects in men and women’s bodies where friends of bride and
groom watch the intended bathe. (direct response to More’s Utopia)
Brethren of Salomon revered as almost deities, who bless the people on their return to
Bensalem. One has a private meeting with the narrator.
o Speaks to the narrator in Spanish
o Tells narrator that the foundation of their knowledge is understanding the causes
and secret motions of things in the world.
o Caves are sunk six hundred fathom, many are around hills so that the bottom is
three miles from the surface. These are called the Lower Region.
These are used for refrigeration, prolonging of life, artificial production of
o Towers are likeswise constructed on hills, called the Upper Region also used for
isolation, refrigeration, conservation and the viewing of weather patterns.
o They have engines that can manipulate weather patterns
o Well-cultivated gardens used for medicinal and food production.
o Animals kept for dissection and study.
o Breeding of both plants and animals extensively practiced.
o Drinks are made of parts so thin that they can be absorbed through the skin.
o Sound houses where all sounds are practiced and their generation studied.
o The twelve brethren that sail into foreign countries under assumed nationalities
are called Merchants of Light.
Depredators-collect experiments that are in books.
Mystery-Men- collect mechanical arts and liberal sciences.
Pioneers or Miners- try new experiments
Compilers- draw and diagram the experiments of the pioneers in order to
make better observations and axioms out of them.
Dowry-Men or Benefactors- look into their fellow’s experiments to see
how to draw out useful information or axioms.
Lamps- consider further experimentation to bring out higher truths.
Inoculators- carry out the experiments described by the Lamps.
Interpreters of Nature- convert the raw information gained by these
experiments into cogent laws and axioms for the population.
o For every major invention a statue is erected in the inventor’s honor.
o Many statues have been erected honoring the major inventors of history revealing
the prominence and emphasis placed on discovery and expansion of knowledge.
End of the text: [The rest was not perfected] which was included by Bacon’s secretary
Magnilia Naturae praecipue quad usus humanos, “The wonderful works of Nature,
chiefly as benefit mankind”
o The prolongation of life.
o The restitution of youth in some degree.
o The retardation of age.
o The curing of diseases counted incurable.
o The mitigation of pain.
o More easy and less loathsome purgings.
o The increasing of strength and activity.
o The increasing of ability to suffer torture or pain.
o The altering of complexions, and fatness and leanness.
o The altering of statures.
o The altering of features.
o The increasing and exalting of the intellectual parts.
o Versions of bodies into other bodies.
o Making of new species.
o Transplanting of one species into another.
o Instruments of destruction, as of war and poison.
o Exhilaration of the spirits, and putting them in good disposition.
o Force of the imagination, either upon another body, or upon the body itself.
o Acceleration of time in maturations.
o Acceleration of time in clarifications.
o Acceleration of putrefaction.
o Acceleration of decoction.
o Acceleration of germination.
o Making rich composts for the earth.
o Impressions of the air, and raising of tempests.
o Great alteration; as of induration, emollition, etc.
o Turning crude and watery substances into oily and unctuous substances.
o Drawing of new foods out of substances not now in use.
o Making new threads for apparel; new stuffs; such as paper; glass, etc.
o Natural divinations
o Deceptions of the senses.
o Greater pleasures of the senses.
o Artificial minerals and cements.
Novum Organum, “The New Instrument” (adopted from Wikipedia.org)
The Novum Organum is a philosophical work published in 1620. The title is a reference to
Aristotle’s work Organon, which was his treatise on logic and syllogism. In Novum Organum,
Bacon details a new system of logic he believes to be superior to the old ways of syllogism. This
is now known as the Baconian method. Syllogism refers to inductive reasoning where logic is
derived from previously established statements. Inductive reasoning, in response, defines logical
statements through repeated observation.
For Bacon, finding the essence of a thing was a simple process of reduction, and the use of
inductive reasoning. In finding the cause of a phenomenal nature such as heat, one must list all
of the situations where heat is found. Then another list should be drawn up, listing situations that
are similar to those of the first list except for the lack of heat. A third table lists situations where
heat can vary. The form nature, or cause, of heat must be that which is common to all instances
in the first table, is lacking from all instances of the second table and varies by degree in
instances of the third table.
This work was critical in the historical development of the scientific.
The cover of Novum Organum depicts a galleon passing between the mythical Pillars of Hercules
that stand either side of the Strait of Gibraltar, marking the exit from the well-charted waters of
the Mediterranean into the Atlantic Ocean. The Pillars, as the boundary of the Mediterranean,
have been smashed through opening a new world to exploration. Bacon hopes that empirical
investigation will, similarly, smash the old scientific ideas and lead to greater understanding of
the world and heavens.
The Latin tag across the bottom is taken from the Book of Daniel 12:4. It means: "Many will
travel and knowledge will be increased". Bacon wanted the government to subsidize science. The
idea is that if you invest in science the state will benefit from the results - just like the ships that
took the risk of leaving the safety of the Mediterranean have returned with great treasures from
America. It is also a metaphor for abandoning the Classical knowledge of the Mediterranean and
adopting the new Baconian methods of science.