We have Francis Bacon to thank for his intellect, essays and concept of "scientific method". As everyone knows, everything is better with bacon.
Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion.
Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561, in London, England. His father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, held the prestigious post of Keeper of the Great Seal for Queen Elizabeth, meaning he held the official disk that would be impressed in wax to mark a document as officially approved by the king or queen.
Bacon's mother, Lady Anne Cooke Bacon, was the second wife of Sir Nicholas. Her father, Sir Anthony Cooke, was a well-known humanist who served as tutor for Edward VI.
Bacon was educated at home in his early years, due to poor health. At the age of 12 he entered Trinity College at Cambridge, along with his older brother, Anthony, to study standard medieval curriculum in Latin. He came to the conclusion that current Aristotelian scientific methodologies were unsatisfactory; he had an interest in the new Renaissance humanism that was starting to take hold.
After three years at Cambridge, Bacon entered into the law program at Gray's Inn in London, one of four Inns of Court that barristers must join in order to practice law in England. Through his father's connections, Bacon traveled abroad with the English ambassador at Paris, and visited many European countries as a diplomat. He once said, "Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience."
In 1579, Bacon's sophisticated lifestyle came to an abrupt end, following the death of his father. Due to poor planning on his father's part, nineteen-year-old Bacon received only one-fifth of the inheritance he had been promised, and that was not enough to pay his debts. He moved back to Gray's Inn to continue his education and work in the field of law. By 1582, he was admitted as an outer barrister.
Bacon entered parliament in 1581, as MP for Bossiney, then for a number of other jurisdictions. During this time he took an interest in Puritanism, to the point that he called for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, because she and the Catholic church were suppressing the Puritans.
With help from an influential uncle, Lord Burghley, Bacon quickly rose through the legal ranks. Queen Elizabeth disliked Bacon, but when James I ascended to the British throne, Bacon found an ally. He was soon knighted, and in 1607 he was appointed solicitor general. In a matter of years he became the attorney general, he was invited to join the Privy Council, and in 1617 he earned the position his father had once held - Keeper of the Great Seal. Bacon then surpassed his father, becoming Lord Chancellor, one of the highest political offices in England. He was named Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Alban as well.
In 1621 Bacon's stunning success came to a sudden end - he was accused of accepting bribes, a charge led by his enemy, Sir Edward Coke. He was asked to make a response to the charges, to avoid the embarrassment and trouble of a trial; he stated, "Upon advised consideration of the charge, descending into my own conscience, and calling my memory to account so far as I am able, I do plainly and ingenuously confess that I am guilty of corruption, and do renounce all defence." He was impeached by Parliament.
Some historians believe that Bacon was set up by his enemies, but in any case he was found guilty. Bacon was fined 40,000 pounds and sentenced to the Tower of London at the pleasure of the king. Luckily for him, the fine was waived and the sentence was lifted after only four days served. He escaped degradation, or the stripping away of his titles, but his reputation was ruined and he lost his place in Parliament. As he once said, "Good fame is like fire; when you have kindled you may easily preserve it; but if you extinguish it, you will not easily kindle it again."
Francis Bacon is famous not for his tarnished political career, but for his essays on humanism and the scientific method. His public disgrace only left him with more time to think, experiment, and write. He put forth the notion of the scientific method, or performing experiments to uncover nature's truths.
He began writing "Instauratio Magma," or "Great Revival," meant to be a comprehensive theory of knowledge, but he only completed two parts of a much larger planned project.
He was the first person to write in the essay format in English. He believed that knowledge could be divided into two types - natural knowledge and divine inspiration - and that the nature of God himself could only come through special revelation. Bacon observed, "A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."
In his "Novum Organum Scientiarum," Bacon stated that the scientific method should start with investigation of an event, including the circumstances surrounding an event, negative occurrences, and comparisons and contrasts to develop a theory. In short, the scientific method, or Baconian method, required the use of evidence rather than discussion and guesswork. "He that hath knowledge spareth his words," he said, and "Science is but an image of the truth." He did not follow through with a recommendation to test new theories, however.
Some have theorized that Bacon may have written some or all of Shakespeare's plays. He had the worldly experience and familiarity with matters of the royal court, but the notion of Bacon penning "Hamlet" or "Romeo and Juliet" has been rejected by most scholars.
Edward Coke, the man who accused Bacon of corruption and brought about his downfall in 1621, had been Bacon's rival for the attention of a young widow, Elizabeth Hatton, in the late 1590s. Hatton chose to marry Coke.
In 1606, 45-year-old Bacon married an heiress, 14-year-old Alice Barnham. She grew restless when his money started to run out, and she engaged in a romantic relationship with another man. Bacon wrote his wife out of his will when he learned of the affair.
Unlucky in love, Bacon wrote in one of his essays, "For it is a true rule, that love is ever rewarded, either with the reciproque, or with an inward and secret contempt."
Bacon once joked, "I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am." Nevertheless, old age and ill health eventually caught up with him.
In 1626, Bacon was taking advantage of recent snowfall to perform experiments involving cold and ice and the preservation of meat. While stuffing a hen with snow, Bacon was chilled and developed bronchitis. On April 9, 1626, an Easter Sunday, Francis Bacon died.
Bacon once said, "Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried, or childless men." Because he died with no heirs, Bacon's titles, Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Alban, died with him.
Francis Bacon made great use of his intellect on this side of the grave - he once wrote, "God has placed no limits to the exercise of the intellect he has given us, on this side of the grave." Only those already on the other side know for sure what lies beyond.