Francis Bacon: Forever Changing the Way We Look at Science

Francis Bacon is one of the most important philosophers to come out of the Renaissance era due to his immense contributions in advancing natural philosophy and scientific methodology.

Bacon was born in London, England, on January 22, 1561. He was the youngest child of his father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Seal, and his mother, Lady Anne Cooke Bacon, who was the daughter of the knight that tutored Edward VI.

In 1573, when he was just eleven years old, Francis Bacon attended Trinity College, Cambridge. After completing his studies in 1575, Bacon enrolled in a law program the next year. It didn’t take him very long to realize that this school was too old-fashioned for his tastes (Bacon recalled that his tutors favored Aristotle, while he was much more interested in the humanistic movement that was spreading across the land due to the Renaissance). Bacon left school and became an assistant to the ambassador in France. In 1579, when his father passed away, Bacon returned to London and resumed studying law, completing his degree in 1582.

In 1584, Francis Bacon was elected to Parliament as a member for Melcombe in Dorsetshire, and he would continue to work in Parliament for the next thirty-six years. Eventually, under James I, Francis Bacon became Lord Chancellor, the highest political office. It was as Lord Chancellor, at the pinnacle of his political career, that Bacon encountered a great scandal that would end his political career entirely, making way for his philosophical pursuits.

In 1621, Francis Bacon, then–Lord Chancellor, was accused of accepting bribes and arrested. Bacon pled guilty to his charges and was fined £40,000 and sentenced to serve a prison sentence in the Tower of London. While his fine was waived and he would only spend four days in prison, Bacon would never be allowed to hold political office or sit in Parliament ever again, thus ending his political life.

It was at this point in Francis Bacon’s life that he decided to dedicate the remainder of his life (five years) to philosophy.