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Francis Bacon

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

The work of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) reflected both faith in the promise of knowledge and an attempt to justify its pursuit in light of traditional opposition. Appointed to serve the English crown as an ambassador and legal advisor, Bacon soon turned his attention to philosophical questions and, along with others of his time, developed a method of experiment and induction that suggested a new relationship between knowing and doing.1 Mere observation of an object’s essential qualities or form no longer sufficed. To gain knowledge, one had to use manual labor and mechanical skill in conducting experiments. Rather than deducing knowledge of particulars from commonly accepted general principles, the investigator induced larger laws from smaller pieces.