Anthony à Wood (essay date 1674)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Anthony à Wood (essay date 1674)

SOURCE: "Life of Roger Bacon (from Wood's Antiquitates Univ. Oxon.)," in Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quœdam hactenus inedita, Vol. I, edited by J. S. Brewer, 1859. Reprint by Kraus Reprint Ltd, 1965, pp. lxxxv-c.

[Wood was an historian whose works are primarily concerned with the City and University of Oxford. In the following excerpt from a chapter reprinted from his Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis (1674), he provides a brief overview of Bacon's significance in advancing human knowledge.]

Omitting a great number of disputes which occurred this year [A.D. 1292,] between the University and the town, I shall proceed to speak of a philosopher the most celebrated that England had hitherto produced; I refer to Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar, of the University of Oxford.…

He composed a great many books on different subjects, on theology, medicine, perspective, geometry, [natural] philosophy, of which he divulged many secrets. He published a Latin, Greek, and Hebrew grammar; he treated of chemistry, cosmography, music, astronomy, astrology, meta-physics, logic, and moral philosophy. And besides these treatises, in which he disclosed the various methods of study pursued in his days, he made many discoveries which but for him might not even now have seen the light. In fact, all his works display so much solid erudition, so many physical tentamina, that when modern sciolists boast so much of their experiments we may match Bacon with Bacon; and with the father and founder of the Gresham school the son of our University, whose singular praise it is to have given birth to such a man, in an age so immature and unfavourable. Leland speaks highly in his praise, and prefers him to Cornelius Agrippa. Moreover, Bacon, as early as 1267, explained to Clement IV., in various works, a method for correcting the calendar, and sent him several writings at the same time, containing precious observations on mathematics and philosophy, which he believed would be useful to the catholic Church. If you consider his care and diligence in this respect, I mean in his attempt to reform the calendar, you will acknowledge that Bede, Roger Infans, Robert Grostete, and other Englishmen, and what is more, that Theophilus, Eusebius, Victorinus, Cyril, and others laboured to little purpose.

William Whewell (essay date 1847)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

William Whewell (essay date 1847)

SOURCE: "The Innovators of the Middle Ages," in The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded upon Their History, Vol 2, second edition, 1847. Reprint by Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1967, pp. 155-73.

[Whewell was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, and the author of several distinguished works on the inductive sciences. In the following excerpt, he focuses upon Opus Majus, seeking "to point out… the way in which the various principles, which the reform of scientific method involved, are here brought into view."]

[Roger Bacon] was termed by his brother monks Doctor Mirabilis. We...

(The entire section is 3480 words.)

J. S. Brewer (essay date 1859)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

J. S. Brewer (essay date 1859)

SOURCE: A preface to Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quœdam hactenus inedita, Vol. 1, edited by J. S. Brewer, 1859. Reprint by Kraus Reprint, 1965, pp. ix-lxxxiv.

[Brewer was Professor of English Literature at King's College, London, and Reader at the Rolls. By the authority of Queen Victoria 's Treasury and under the direction of the Master of the Rolls, he edited a one-volume edition of Bacon's works which includes Opus Minus, Opus Tertium, Compendium studii philosophiae, and Epistola fratris Rogeri Baconis de secretis operibus artis et naturae, et de nullitate magiae. In the following excerpt, Brewer summarizes the significance of...

(The entire section is 595 words.)

The Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review (essay date 1864)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Life and Writings of Roger Bacon," in The Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol. LXXXI, No. CLIX, January, 1864, pp. 1-30.

[In the following excerpt, an anonymous critic surveys Bacon's career and outlines Bacon's character based on his writings.]

Roger Bacon is one of the few really great men who have been equally neglected by their contemporaries and by posterity. All who have looked into his writings, Leland and Selden no less than Humboldt and Victor Cousin, point to him as the most original thinker of the middle ages. His anticipations of the course of scientific discovery, yield only in importance to the justness of his conceptions of the...

(The entire section is 3577 words.)

E. H. Plumptre (essay date 1866)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

E. H. Plumptre (essay date 1866)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon," The Contemporary Review, Vol. II, May-August, 1866, pp. 364-92.

[In the following excerpt, Plumptre offers a general estimate of Bacon's teaching on universals and of his views on ethical and political philosophy. The critic also discusses the relation in which Bacon stood to the religious life of Oxford and of England.]

Few of the chance coincidences of history are more striking than the fact that the great philosophical reformers of the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries, who fought the same battles against the same foes, who used almost the same weapons, should have also borne the...

(The entire section is 3267 words.)

George S. Morris (essay date 1880)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

George S. Morris (essay date 1880)

SOURCE: "Mediaeval Anticipations of the Modem English Mind—John of Salisbury, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, William of Occam," in British Thought and Thinkers: Introductory Studies, Critical, Biographical and Philosophical, S. C. Griggs and Company, 1880, pp. 30-52.

[Morris was Lecturer on Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and an Associate of the Victoria Institute, London. In the following excerpt, he surveys Bacon's accomplishment as the work of a martyr to the cause of scientific and philosophical truth: a "wonder," whose profound works went unappreciated in the "darkness of the Middle Ages" and are superior to those of his...

(The entire section is 1397 words.)

Herbert Maxwell (essay date 1894)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Herbert Maxwell (essay date 1894)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon," in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. CLVI, No. DCCCXLIX, November, 1894, pp. 610-23.

[In the following excerpt, Maxwell summarizes Bacon's significance as an enlightener of the modern mind, emphasizing his role as a persecuted seeker of truth.]

The coincidence that Roger Bacon bore, in a time before surnames had come into general use, the same surname that was to be carried to fame four centuries later by "the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind," has cast into deeper eclipse the reputation of one of the most penetrating thinkers who have from time to time revolted against false teaching...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

John Henry Bridges (essay date 1897)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

John Henry Bridges (essay date 1897)

SOURCE: An introduction to The "Opus Majus" of Roger Bacon, Vol. I, edited by John Henry Bridges, 1897. Reprint by Minerva G. m. b. H., 1964, pp. xxi-xcii.

[A Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and sometime Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, Bridges was a scholar of Auguste Compte's work and himself a philosophical positivist. He edited a Latin edition of Opus Majus which was first published in two volumes in 1897, but was withdrawn by the Clarendon Press after critics noted serious errors in the text due to Bridges's faulty reading of Bacon's manuscripts, his too-strict reliance upon Samuel Jebb's 1733 edition, and his...

(The entire section is 1704 words.)

Henry Osborn Taylor (essay date 1911)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Henry Osborn Taylor (essay date 1911)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon," in The Mediaeval Mind: A History of the Development of Thought and Emotion in the Middle Ages, Vol. II, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1911, pp. 484-508.

[In the following excerpt, Taylor offers a balanced examination of Bacon's attitude toward Scripture and the doctrines of the Church, his views of the state of knowledge in his time, and his interest in optics and experimental science.]

Of all mediaeval men, Thomas Aquinas achieved the most organic and comprehensive union of the results of human reasoning and the data of Christian theology. He may be regarded as the final exponent of...

(The entire section is 7282 words.)

S. A. Hirsch (essay date 1914)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

S. A. Hirsch (essay date 1914)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon and Philology," in Roger Bacon Essays Contributed by Various Writers on the Occasion of the Commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of His Birth, edited by A. G. Little, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1914, pp. 101-51.

[In the following excerpt, Hirsch offers a disinterested assessment of the philological theory and practice of Bacon, tracing possible sources and assessing his influence.]

Roger Bacon held that the knowledge of languages was the first gate that led to the acquisition of wisdom. It was particularly indispensable to the 'Latins', whose entire acquaintance with theology and philosophy...

(The entire section is 14679 words.)

William Romaine Newbold (essay date 1921)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

William Romaine Newbold (essay date 1921)

SOURCE: "The Forerunner of Modern Science," in The Cipher of Roger Bacon, edited by Roland Grubb Kent, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1928, pp. 1-28.

[Newbold was the Adam Seybert Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania until his death in 1926. He was a master at decoding ciphers, a lifelong passion, and he spent considerable time and industry deciphering the Voynich Manuscript—a discourse on natural science by Bacon, written in cipher, and purchased in or about 1912 by Wilfrid M. Voynich, a specialist in rare books and manuscripts. Newbold lectured on the Voynich Manuscript in 1921...

(The entire section is 8375 words.)

Robert Steele (essay date 1921)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Robert Steele (essay date 1921)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon and the State of Science in the Thirteenth Century," in Studies in the History and Method of Science, Vol II, edited by Charles Singer, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1921, pp. 121-50.

[Steele was one of the editors of the twelve-volume Opera Hactenus Inedita Fratris Rogeri Baconis (1905-40). In the following excerpt, he places Bacon within the context of his world and of his scholarly contemporaries, summarizing Bacon's contributions to knowledge in several fields of learning.]

In estimating Bacon's position among the men of his own time it is important to remember, first of all, the...

(The entire section is 3636 words.)

Lynn Thorndike (essay date 1923)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Lynn Thorndike (essay date 1923)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon," in A History of Magic and Experimental Science during the First Thirteen Centuries of Our Era, The Macmillan Company, 1923, pp. 616-87.

[In the following excerpt from a lengthy chapter in his important History of Magic and Experimental Science, Thorndike turns from a brief overview of Bacon's life to examine Opus Maius, Opus Minus, and Opus Tertium, Bacon's contributions in the development of modern experimental science, and his attitude toward magic and astrology. Throughout his essay, Thorndike scornfully emphasizes Bacon's gullibility and derivitiveness.]

His...

(The entire section is 14450 words.)

George Sarton (essay date 1927)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

George Sarton (essay date 1927)

SOURCE: "Philosophic and Cultural Background: Roger Bacon," in Introduction to the History of Science: From Rabbi Ben Ezra to Roger Bacon, Vol. II, The Williams & Wilkins Company, 1931, pp. 952-67.

[In the following excerpt from a work originally published in 1927, Sarton surveys Bacon's achievement, arranged by discipline, referring occasionally to his unfinished Compendium philosophiae.]

General appreciation—Bacon was essentially an encyclopaedist; that is, he was tormented with the idea of the unity of knowledge, and his life was a long effort better to grasp and to explain that unity. He denounced...

(The entire section is 3631 words.)

Christopher Dawson (essay date 1934)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Christopher Dawson (essay date 1934)

SOURCE: "Religion and Mediaeval Science," in Mediaeval Religion (The Forwood Lectures 1934) and Other Essays, Sheed & Ward Inc., 1934, pp. 57-94.

[In the following excerpt, Dawson summarizes the significance of Bacon's thought and its originality, citing him as a key example of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.]

[It] is difficult to overestimate the influence of Grosseteste's thought on the mind of one of the most remarkable figures of the thirteenth century, whose fame has indeed overshadowed that of his master—I mean Roger Bacon. It was from Grosseteste that Bacon derived not only his...

(The entire section is 822 words.)

F. Winthrop Woodruff (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

F. Winthrop Woodruff (essay date 1938)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon as a Critic among the Schoolmen," in Roger Bacon: A Biography, James Clark & Co., Ltd, 1938, pp. 89-101.

[In the following excerpt, Woodruff examines the role of Bacon as a critic of and among the Schoolmen, comparing his philosophical emphases with those of Thomas Aquinas, Alexander of Hales, and others.]

Bacon was somewhat critical of the intellectual world around him, and it is important to consider his comments on some of the great individuals of his day. At first he seems to have studied with a docile spirit, and to have been appreciative of his teachers. Indeed to judge from his...

(The entire section is 2553 words.)

Bertrand Russell (essay date 1945)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Bertrand Russell (essay date 1945)

SOURCE: "Franciscan Schoolmen," in A History of Western Philosophy, and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Simon and Schuster, 1945, pp. 463-75.

[A respected and prolific author, Russell was an English philosopher and mathematician known for his support of humanistic concerns. Two of his early works, Principles of Mathematics (1903) and Principia Mathematica (1910-13), written with Alfred North Whitehead, are considered classics of mathematical logic. His philosophical approach to all his endeavors discounts idealism or emotionalism and asserts a progressive...

(The entire section is 1157 words.)

Frederick Mayer (essay date 1948)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Frederick Mayer (essay date 1948)

SOURCE: "Religion and Science in Roger Bacon," in The Personalist, Vol XXIX, No. 3, Summer, 1948, pp. 261-71.

[In the following essay, Mayer discourses upon Bacon's achievement, arguing that Bacon, far from being a dabbler in medieval magic, was a scholar who believed that the pursuit of scientific knowledge was complementary to Christian belief, not antithetical to it.]

Until the sixteenth century only three of Bacon's minor works had been printed. The obscurity of his life and his labors in science, together with his aloofness from the affairs of his day, caused his name to be linked with magic. This impression...

(The entire section is 3581 words.)

Stewart C. Easton (essay date 1952)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Stewart C. Easton (essay date 1952)

SOURCE: "The Universal Science of Roger Bacon," in Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science: A Reconsideration of the Life and Work of Roger Bacon in the Light of His Own Stated Purposes, Columbia University Press, 1952, pp. 167-85.

[In the following excerpt, Easton sketches the philosophy of science "which Bacon took for granted as his intellectual framework, but himself never stated in formal terms.']

It has sometimes been supposed that the science of Roger Bacon is full of contradictions. He believed in revealed and experimental knowledge at the same time; he thought of theology as the queen of...

(The entire section is 7236 words.)

A. C. Crombie (essay date 1953)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

A. C. Crombie (essay date 1953)

SOURCE: "Grosseteste and the Oxford School," in Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science, 1100-1700, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1953, pp. 135-88.

[In the following excerpt, Crombie demonstrates the influence of Robert Grosseteste 's thought upon Bacon 's scientifictheories.]

The writer who most thoroughly grasped, and who mostelaborately developed Grosseteste's attitude to nature andtheory of science was Roger Bacon (c. 1214-92) himself. Recent research has shown that in many of the aspects ofhis science in which he has been thought to have beenmost original, Bacon was simply taking over the...

(The entire section is 7471 words.)

Etienne Gilson (essay date 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Etienne Gilson (essay date 1955)

SOURCE: "Roger Bacon," in History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Random House, 1955, pp. 294-312.

[Gilson was a prominent and prolific Neo-Thomist philosopher. He was the founder and longtime director of the Institute of Mediaeval Studies in association with St. Michael's College, the University of Toronto. In the following excerpt, Gilson offers a detailed overview of Bacon's beliefs as a philosopher and as a reformer.]

I. THE PHILOSOPHER

A mere glance at the philosophical works of Roger Bacon is enough to convince the reader that they were written under the predominant...

(The entire section is 8699 words.)

Julius R. Weinberg (essay date 1964)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Julius R. Weinberg (essay date 1964)

SOURCE: "Philosophy in Thirteenth Century Christendom," in A Short History of Medieval Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1964, pp. 157-81.

[In the following excerpt, Weinberg succinctly summarizes Bacon's philosophy and its significance.]

In his Opus Majus, a lengthy exposition of the need to improve philosophical study, Roger Bacon (born about 1214 or a little later; died after 1292) expresses points of view which link him to Avicenna and the older Augustinian doctrines and at the same time reveal his intense interest in the development of mathematics and experimental science.

...

(The entire section is 848 words.)

Joseph Kupfer (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Joseph Kupfer (essay date 1974)

SOURCE: "The Father of Empiricism: Roger Not Francis," in Vivarium, Vol XII, No. 1, May, 1974, pp. 52-62.

[In the following essay, Kupfer examines Bacon's credentials as the true father of empiricism for awarding "utility, observation, and 'experience' the central place in his philosophy of science and knowledge. ']

Although Roger Bacon's life spanned most of the Thirteenth century, his philosophy of science carried his thought into what has been loosely dubbed the "Modern period". And although often credited with heralding this Modern period of philosophy Francis Bacon's emphasis on experiment is itself anticipated...

(The entire section is 3833 words.)

Jeremiah M. G. Hackett (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Jeremiah M. G. Hackett (essay date 1980)

SOURCE: "The Attitude of Roger Bacon to the Scientiaof Albertus Magnus," in Albertus Magnus and the Sciences, Commemorative Essays 1980, edited by James A. Weisheipl, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980, pp. 53-72.

[Hackett has written extensively on Bacon's works. In the following excerpt, he examines four of Bacon's works to discern the identity of the "unnamed master" derided by Bacon in his writings and to determine the reason for Bacon's objections to the science of this mysterious authority.]

Since the rediscovery of the works of Roger Bacon in the nineteenth century, it has been...

(The entire section is 6928 words.)

David C. Lindberg (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

David C. Lindberg (essay date 1987)

SOURCE: "Science as Handmaiden: Roger Bacon and the Patristic Tradition," in Isis, Vol. 78, No. 294, December, 1987, pp. 518-36.

[Lindberg has written extensively on Bacon's accomplishment and is the editor of Roger Bacon's Philosophy of Nature: A Critical Edition with English Translation, Introduction, and Notes of "De multiplicatione specierum" and "De speculis comburentibus" (1983). In the following excerpt, he seeks to demonstrate that "Bacon was not a modern, out of step with his age, or a harbinger of things to come, but a brilliant, combative, and somewhat eccentric schoolman of the thirteenth century, endeavoring to...

(The entire section is 4662 words.)

Jeremiah Hackett (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Jeremiah Hackett (essay date 1988)

SOURCE: "Averroes and Roger Bacon on the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy," in A Straight Path: Studies in Medieval Philosophy and CultureEssays in Honor of Arthur Hyman, edited by Ruth Link-Salinger and others, The Catholic University of America Press, 1988, pp. 98-112.

[In the essay below, Hackett seeks to demonstrate that Bacon managed to reproduce the essential teaching of Averroes's treatise Kitab fasl al-maqal (The Decisive Treatise Determining the Nature of the Connection between Religion and Philosophy); he posits that the two men shared essentially the same belief regarding the harmony of religion and...

(The entire section is 5389 words.)