Roger Bacon Additional Biography

Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111200123-Bacon_R.jpg Roger Bacon (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

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....

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Crombie, A. C. Medieval and Early Modern Science. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959. Extensive bibliographic coverage with detailed analyses of Bacon’s contributions to calendar reform, scientific classifications, education, geography, geology, ophthalmology, optics, and physics.

Crombie, A. C. Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science, 1100-1700. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953. A detailed examination of experimentation in the thirteenth century and its relationship to modern scientific method.

Easton, Stewart C. Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952. Besides being an excellent bibliography of primary and secondary sources, Easton’s account is valuable for its emphasis on Bacon’s early life, educational experiences, Paris professorship, scientific contributions, religious conflicts, and impact on science and education.

Leff, Gordon. Paris and Oxford Universities in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1968. Bacon is cast within an institutional context that emphasizes university regulations, curricular requirements, teaching privileges, and intellectual developments. Special emphasis is placed on Aristotelianism and its influence on later medieval education.

Steele, R. “Roger Bacon and the State of Science in the Thirteenth Century.” In Studies in the History and Method of Science, edited by Charles Singer. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921. The best early attempt to show the continuity of Bacon’s scientific thought.

Thorndike, Lynn. A History of Magic and Experimental Science. 6 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1923-1941. Volume 2 contains many valuable discussions of Bacon’s contributions to science; especially important for information on thirteenth century scientists and for criticism of those historians who overestimated Bacon’s uniqueness. One of the seminal studies on the subject, based upon earlier Baconian publications by Thorndike in the Philosophical Review of 1914 and the American Historical Review of 1916.

Westacott, E. Roger Bacon in Life and Legend. New York: Philosophical Library, 1953. Among the more important topics covered are Bacon’s principal works (in synopses, notably the Opus majus), his role as a medieval philosopher and scientist, and his creativity in the secular disciplines.