Such excessive claims are made for science, and there are so many ‘breakthroughs’, that many of us become cynical. This has been true ever since the early days of the ‘Scientiﬁc Revolution’, when great things were forecast by Francis Bacon, and by his disciples in the newly-founded Royal Society after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. Knowledge was power. Successful kings had always known that about political power, but here were promises that the curse imposed upon Adam and Eve might be mitigated: labour and pain would be reduced, and death delayed. The vision of alchemists, those eternal optimists, was transformed: the gold would be earned through science-based agriculture and industry, with ﬂourishing commerce in the new sphere of oceanic shipping. Bacon on his title-pages took over the arms of Columbus, showing the ‘pillars of Hercules’ at the entrance of the Mediterranean and a ship sailing through them, with ‘plus ultra’, further yet, as the motto. New worlds would indeed open up to those following the new method of cautious inductive science, aiming boldly at ‘the effecting of all things possible’.1 In his utopian New Atlantis , Bacon described a prospering island run by an academy of sciences: Britain could play that role.