Today marks the birthday of Francis Bacon (1561–1626,) the great English natural philosopher, statesman, and pioneer of modern scientific thought. Bacon’s abundant writing spanned scientific methodology, religion, moral philosophy, and judicial administration.

Bacon started his political career at age 23 when he became a Member of Parliament. He opposed Queen Elizabeth I’s tax program, fell out of her favor, and encountered difficulty advancing his career. After James I acceded the throne in 1603, Bacon’s career flourished; he ultimately rose to become the Lord Chancellor, one of Britain’s highest political offices. However, his political career ended in disgrace in 1621 when the British Parliament incriminated him for accepting bribes and banished him from holding public office. James I revoked Bacon’s sentence and allowed him to write in retirement.

Bacon’s real interests lay in science. He challenged the Aristotelian notion that scientific truth could be reached by means of authoritative argument (wherein knowledgeable people discuss a subject long enough to eventually ascertain the truth.) In his early text, Cogitata et Visa (1607,) Bacon first proposed the idea of inductive reasoning. And in his best-known work, Novum Organum (1620,) Bacon not only advocated observable evidence and rational investigation, but also promoted the dismissal of hypotheses founded on incomplete and insufficient proof. His philosophy, now known as the scientific method, has since been the basis of all experimental science.

Ironically, Bacon’s scientific method ultimately took his life. When journeying in the snow-filled countryside one day, Bacon hit upon the idea of using snow to preserve meat. To test his hypothesis, Bacon purchased a fowl and stuffed it with snow. Later that day, he developed a cold that advanced into pneumonia and killed him.

Inspirational Quotations by Francis Bacon

Truth will sooner come out from error than from confusion.
—Francis Bacon

It is a miserable state of mind to have few things to desire and many things to fear.
—Francis Bacon

Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.
—Francis Bacon

It is not possible to run a course aright when the goal itself has not been rightly placed.
—Francis Bacon

Knowledge itself is power.
—Francis Bacon

Friendship increases in visiting friends, but in visiting them seldom.
—Francis Bacon

There is a difference between happiness and wisdom: he that thinks himself the happiest man is really so; but he that thinks himself the wisest is generally the greatest fool.
—Francis Bacon

A wise man will make more opportunities, than he finds.
—Francis Bacon

Be angry, but sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Anger must be limited and confined, both in race and in time.
—Francis Bacon

Seek first the virtues of the mind; and other things either will come, or will not be wanted.
—Francis Bacon

Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.
—Francis Bacon

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
—Francis Bacon

Knowledge, that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation.
—Francis Bacon

Riches are a good handmaid, but the worst mistress.
—Francis Bacon

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.
—Francis Bacon

Nothing is terrible except fear itself.
—Francis Bacon

It is true that may hold in these things, which is the general root of superstition; namely, that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss; and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other.
—Francis Bacon

Opportunity makes a thief.
—Francis Bacon

Prosperity discovers vice, adversity discovers virtue.
—Francis Bacon

For all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself.
—Francis Bacon

By far the greatest hindrance and aberration of the human understanding proceeds from the dullness, incompetency, and deceptions of the senses.
—Francis Bacon

Young people are fitter to invent than to judge; fitter for execution than for counsel; and more fit for new projects than for settled business.
—Francis Bacon

Money makes a good servant, but a bad master.
—Francis Bacon

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
—Francis Bacon

The monuments of wit survive the monuments of power.
—Francis Bacon

Men in great place are thrice servants; servants of the sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business; so that they have no freedom, neither in their persons, in their actions, nor in their times.—It is a strange desire to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man’s self.
—Francis Bacon

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
—Francis Bacon

Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.
—Francis Bacon

No pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of truth.
—Francis Bacon

The worst solitude is to have no real friendships.
—Francis Bacon



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