After attending the universities of Oxford and Paris, Bacon taught for a time at the University of Paris, then the leading center for the study of the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. It was probably there that he developed his life-long interest in Aristotle’s natural science. However, he soon returned home to England and became a Franciscan monk at Oxford. There he studied and taught Aristotelian science, and undertook scientific experiments, subjecting the ancient philosopher’s observations of the natural world to concrete tests.
At the request of his friend Pope Clement IV, Bacon wrote his Opus Majus (1268), an encyclopedic work encompassing discourses on philosophy, grammar, logic, mathematics, physics, and experimental research. Strongly critical of the scientific learning of the time, this work called for a reformation in the way that science was taught and practiced. Because Clement died shortly after the book’s completion, the work had little impact during Bacon’s lifetime. However, Bacon’s call for empirical testing would be heard by future scholars and used to undermine the authority of many ancient texts—including those of Aristotle.
Though a pioneer of experimental science, Bacon was not completely free of the pseudosciences widely accepted in his day. He was especially fascinated with alchemy, which combined cosmology (the study of the origin and nature of the universe) with chemical experiments....
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