Born: October 28, 1909
Born Place: Dublin, Ireland
Died: April 28, 1992
Death Place: Madrid, Spain
Nationality: Irish, British
On view: The Museum of Modern Art, Hirshhorn Museum, The Phillips Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago
Periods: Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism
Art forms: Painting
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, PC QC (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626), also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are credited with developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.
Bacon has been called the father of empiricism. His works argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature. Most importantly, he argued science could be achieved by use of a sceptical and methodical approach whereby scientists aim to avoid misleading themselves. Although his most specific proposals about such a method, the Baconian method, did not have a long-lasting influence, the general idea of the importance and possibility of a sceptical methodology makes Bacon the father of the scientific method. This method was a new rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, the practical details of which are still central in debates about science and methodology.
Francis Bacon was a patron of libraries and developed a functional system for the cataloguing of books by dividing them into three categories—history, poetry, and philosophy—which could further be divided into more specific subjects and subheadings. Bacon was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he rigorously followed the medieval curriculum, largely in Latin.
Bacon was the first recipient of the Queen’s counsel designation, which was conferred in 1597 when Elizabeth I of England reserved Bacon as her legal advisor. After the accession of James VI and I in 1603, Bacon was knighted. He was later created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Alban in 1621.
Because he had no heirs, both titles became extinct upon his death in 1626, at 65 years. Bacon died of pneumonia, with one account by John Aubrey stating that he had contracted the condition while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat. He is buried at St Michael’s Church, St Albans, Hertfordshire.
Francis Bacon was born on 22 January 1561 at York House near the Strand in London, the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon (Lord Keeper of the Great Seal) by his second wife, Anne (Cooke) Bacon, the daughter of the noted Renaissance humanist Anthony Cooke. His mother’s sister was married to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, making Burghley Bacon’s uncle.
Biographers believe that Bacon was educated at home in his early years owing to poor health, which would plague him throughout his life. He received tuition from John Walsall, a graduate of Oxford with a strong leaning toward Puritanism. He went up to Trinity College at the University of Cambridge on 5 April 1573 at the age of 12, living for three years there, together with his older brother Anthony Bacon under the personal tutelage of Dr John Whitgift, future Archbishop of Canterbury. Bacon’s education was conducted largely in Latin and followed the medieval curriculum. He was also educated at the University of Poitiers. It was also at Cambridge that Bacon first met Queen Elizabeth, who was impressed by his precocious intellect, and was accustomed to calling him “The young lord keeper”.
His studies brought him to the belief that the methods and results of science as then practised were erroneous. His reverence for Aristotle conflicted with his rejection of Aristotelian philosophy, which seemed to him barren, disputatious and wrong in its objectives.
Some of the more notable works by Bacon are:
- 1st edition with 10 essays (1597)
- 2nd edition with 38 essays (1612)
- 3rd/final edition with 58 essays (1625)
- The Advancement and Proficience of Learning Divine and Human (1605)
- Instauratio magna (The Great Instauration) (1620): a multi-part work including Distributio operis (Plan of the Work); Novum Organum (New Engine); Parasceve ad historiam naturalem (Preparatory for Natural History) and Catalogus historiarum particularium (Catalogue of Particular Histories)
- De augmentis scientiarum (1623) – an enlargement of The Advancement of Learning translated into Latin
- New Atlantis (1626)