Sunday, 11 July 2010

Francis Bacon

NAME Francis Bacon or 1st Baron Verulam and Viscount St Albans

WHAT FAMOUS FOR English statesman and philosopher.

BIRTH b1561 York House, Strand, London.

FAMILY BACKGROUND Francis' was the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, who was Elizabeth I's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He was a staunch enemy of Roman Catholics.
Francis' mum , Anne Cooke, was a Protestant daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, an eminent humanist, scholar and tutor to Edward VI. She was famous for her learning and published translations from Italian and Latin .

CHILDHOOD Francis grew up familiar with the royal court. Not only did his dad rub shoulders with his uncle, but his uncle, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, was the chief advisor of Queen Liz for most of her reign.

EDUCATION An all round clever cogs, Bacon made himself master of the whole body of knowledge in existence. Biographers believe that Francis received an education at home in his early years, and that his health during that time, as later, was delicate. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1573 (yes, your maths is correct he was just 13). Bacon lived there for three years there with his older brother Anthony Bacon.
At Cambridge, his studies of science brought him to the conclusion that the methods (and thus the results) were erroneous. His reverence for Aristotle conflicted with his dislike of Aristotelian philosophy, which seemed barren, disputatious, and wrong in its objectives. After Cambridge he went on to Grays Inn for training in law.
In his writings, Bacon stressed the principle of learning by the inductive process by which student are encouraged to observe and examine with their senses.

CAREER RECORD Bacon's goals were threefold: discovery of truth, service to his country, and service to the church. Knowing that a prestigious post would aid him toward these ends, in 1580 he applied, through Uncle William, (1st Baron Burghley), for a post at court. His application failed, and for the next two years Bacon worked quietly at Gray's Inn until admitted as an outer barrister in 1582. His CV is as follows:
1582 Became a barrister
1584 Elected to Parliament for Melcombe in Dorset.
1586 Re-elected this time as MP for Taunton, Somerset.
1593 Bacon took his third parliamentary seat , this time for Middlesex. During this period, Bacon was enduring long disappointments in his attempts to gain public office. He wrote letters of sound advice to the Queen but she never took them on board. Things changed when James
I came to throne.
1603 The accession of James I brought Bacon into greater favour. He was knighted in 1603.
1604 Member of the King's Council
1607 Solicitor General
1613 Attorney General
1614 Retired from House of Commons
1617 Made Keeper of the Great Seal of England following in daddy's footsteps.
1618 Appointed Lord Chancellor with title Lord Verulam
1621 After a few months in prison (see Scandal below) he concentrated on his writing career.

APPEARANCE So was Bacon fat or lean? Actually he was middling stature and looked older than what he was. Goatee beard, dark hair.
The Elizabethans favoured idiosyncrasies in appearance in contrast to the perfect proportions loved by the Greeks. Said Bacon: "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."

FASHION Bacon dressed in typically tight Elizabethan attire. which rendered the wearer unable to move, so he could only stand and pose. The reasons behind this was to show they had enough servants to do everything for them.

CHARACTER Mean but as just as a judge. A fine speaker, impetuous, ambitious. According to Alexander Pope, Bacon was, "the wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind." However as Pope lived over a hundred years later, how did he know?

SENSE OF HUMOUR Bacon was a wit. Here's his opinion on a lanky tall envoy from France "People of such dimensions are like four or five storey houses-the upper rooms are the most poorly furnished." (1)

RELATIONSHIPS In his book On Marriage and Single Life, Bacon quipped "Wives are young men's mistresses, companions for middle age and old men's nurses." He waited until he was in his mid 40s before tieing the knot. On 10th May 1606, Bacon married one Alice Barnham (1592-1650) at St Marylebone's Chapel, a suburb to the North of London, with the reception at the Strand estate. Alice was not yet 14 when they wed and her guardian was Sir John Pakington, who was a great favourite of Queen Elizabeth. A number of modern scholars have speculated that Bacon was gay and married for political reasons.
"Children sweeten labours but they make misfortunes more bitter," said Bacon in Essay of Parents and Children. Well, Mr and Mrs Bacon produced no litter, which I guess adds further fuel to the scholars speculations.

MONEY "Money is like muck not good except it be spread." Of Seditions and Troubles
He was so mean that the Queen attended the annual opening of his wallet.
"Fame is like a river that beareth up all things light and swollen and drowns things weighty and solid." FB "Of Praise"
The sudden death of his father in February 1579 seriously influenced Bacon's fortunes. Sir Nicholas had laid up a considerable sum of money to purchase an estate for Francis, but he died before doing so, and his youngest son was left with only a fifth of that money. Having started with insufficient means, he borrowed money and became habitually in debt. To support himself, he took up his residence in law at Gray's Inn in 1579 in order to to bring home some, er bacon .
For the next 25 years his financial situation remained bad. His friends could find no public office for him, a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow Lady Elizabeth Hatton failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. It was only Bacon's change in fortunes when James I came to the throne that he became financially secure. He was helped by Alice bringing an income of £220 a year from her father's estate.
Bacon quipped in Of Seditions and Troubles "Money is like muck not good except it be spread." However, he had a reputation for being rather mean with his wallet.

MUSIC AND ARTS The theory that Bacon, rather than a certain playwright from Stratford-Upon-Avon was the author of such plays as Macbeth and Hamlet can be discounted.
"Generally music feedeth that disposition of the Spirits which it findeth." Bacon in Sylva Sylvarum

LITERATURE Bacon wrote over 30 philosophical books and many other legal, scientific and many other popular works. He often didn't finish ambitious works which he'd started such as Novum Organium Here's some of his works:
1597 Essays The first essays to be actually called essay. They were famous for Bacon's pregnant aphorisms such as "Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him... when the hill stood still he was never a whit abashed but said 'If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mohomet will go to the hill."; (Well wouldn't you be a whit abashed if you saw a hill heading towards you?)
1603 The Advancement of Learning In which Bacon classified the different types of knowledge into poetry, philosophy and history.
1620 Novum Organium (New Logic) In which Bacon threw out the old logic and proposed in Latin, the inductive method of logical reasoning but never got round to finishing it.
1626 New Atlantis Publ This fable about a city on an imaginary Pacific island ran by scholars called Ben Salem was published posthumously. Its advanced population had aircraft, hearing aids, refrigerators and submarines. One of the first ever Science Fiction novels, it was a best seller for more than a decade.
Some people think Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays (whilst Shakespeare was Lord Chancellor?) The essayist might have been a bit of a ham but as far as I'm concerned its unlikely as until 1603 he wrote all his books in Latin. The Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle agrees with me. He wrote: "Lord Bacon could as easily have created the Planets as he could have written Hamlet "


NATURE A keen gardener, Bacon wrote in Of Gardens. "God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures." Also, according to Bacon: "Nothing is more pleasant to the eye than green grass kept finely shorn."

SCIENCE AND MATHS Bacon saw natural science as a means of empirical discovery and a way of increasing human power over nature. He felt that science held the key to technical progress. He was greatly revered by scientists well into the 20th century for the so-called Baconian method, which involved analysing experience by mechanical means so as to arrive at true conclusions.
Bacon also:
1. Developed binary using only "a" & "b" in 5 letter combinations for letters of alphabet. He also developed bribery.
2. Believed warm water freezes quicker than cold water. However, he made a pigs ear of that one as you will read later in in this trivial biography.
3. Declared that works not words would carry the new science’s message.
4. Credited with contributing to logic a method of reasoning a method of analogy.
5. He didn't actually invent much

PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY An early advocate of Enlightenment, Bacon saw men progressing through conquering nature.
Middle of the road C of E. His religion was generally more formal than fervent but it occasionally stirred . Said Bacon: "There never was found in any age of the world either philosophy or sect or law or discipline which did so highly exalt the public good as the Christian faith."
Politically a conservative, Bacon saw an ideal government as one, which was benevolent without the worst excesses of despotism by rulers.

SCANDAL As Lord Chancellor in 1621, like a boiled egg Bacon got himself in hot water and was convicted of bribery when granting monopoly patents. He was fined the considerable sum in those days of £40,000, dismissed from office, banished from court and spent four days in Tower of London. The swine confessed saying he was "neatly and penitently sorry". but said he did not always give verdict to his paymaster. King James later pardoned him and remitted his fine but forbade him to return to Parliament or court.
"When the Lordships asked Bacon
How many Bribes he had taken
He had at least the grace
To get very red in the face."

HOMES His family home was Gorhambury House, St Albans, Hertfordshire. When Queen Elizabeth visited Bacon's father there she commented "What a little house you've gotten." Sir Nicholas replied tactfully "The house is well built, but it is you, your majesty who have made me too great for my house." Bacon's dad took the Queen's hint and began to build extensions on the property so he could properly entertain her in the future.
Bacon's garden there had a garden full of mechanical curiosities.
Bacon a practical outlook on one's home. He wrote in Of Buildings "Houses are built to live in and not to look on; therefore let use be preferred before uniformity, except where both be had."

TRAVEL Wrote Bacon in Of Travel : "Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience." When a teenager Francis and his older brother Anthony
popped across the English channel with Sir Amias Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France under Henry III afforded him valuable political instruction. The sudden death of his father two and a half years later in February 1579 necessitated Bacon's return to England

DEATH Died 1626 aged 65 The father of experimental science was driving in his carriage one wintry day in Highgate, North London, when he decided on impulse to observe the effect of cold on the preservation of meat - as one does. Bacon stopped his carriage, purchased a chicken and stuffed it with snow. Soon afterwards he was seized by a chill, which developed into bronchitis. Feeling ill and beginning to shiver violently, Bacon made his way to the nearby house of his friend Earl of Arundel. He was given a damp bed-so damp that his condition worsened and he died of pneumonia."His last words were: "My name and memory I leave to men's charitable speeches, to foreign nations and to the next age." I wished it had been "What a fowl day.!"
His tomb and monument are in St Mildred’s Church, St Albans.

APPEARANCES IN MEDIA Most of his portrayals on the silver screen have cropped up in films about Queen Elizabeth such as in Elizabeth and Essex (1939), where Donald Crisp plays him as a wily old fox.

ACHIEVEMENTS 1. Laid foundations of experimental approach to science putting a stop to Aristotle's non-experimental methods. The first great methodological scientist.
2. Bacon believed that only matters of good and evil have religious significance, not scientific discoveries. He taught that the ever increasing scientific knowledge could be developed without any reference to God or his creation. Thus, he began the split between religion and Science.
3. Bacon’s writings were largely responsible for the formation of Royal Society and he was the most influential & versatile writer of his generation.
4. The first outstanding English Essayist



1. The Faber Book of Anecdotes by Clifton Fadiman.

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