Were you ever at school, or university, with one of those super clever people? You know, the ones who came top in nearly every subject? And outside class they could draw, play the guitar, drink everyone under the table, crack the best jokes, and still manage to be amazingly popular and well liked? Years later you run across them on the internet and they are multimillionaires running large companies. Or you find their books cramming the science section in your local Waterstones, and you can’t even understand the blurb on the back.
But is there another class of person even beyond your average, run of the mill genius, a person so clever that they have changed the world forever? We think we have found a possible candidate. Ladies and Gentleman, may we introduce Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban Kt PC QC (1561-1626)or Lord Verulam as he was known to his friends. In our age, where it seems impossible to get anything done without intense specialisation, Bacon managed to be Attorney General, Lord Chancellor, Master Librarian, Counsellor to Monarchs, and inventor of the scientific method. And that was where he counted. Bacon it was who more or less invented inductive reasoning. That is, you come up with an idea, gather all the evidence you can, assess and test it, then make a final judgement, which can only ever be a probability statement. That’s why we have vaccines, space travel, electric lights, powered flight, and understand so much about the depths of space and time.
If you want to read more about Bacon, his friends and enemies, his sexual proclivities, and his achievements in general, the Wikipedia article below is a good place to start. He was born in the last days of the Renaissance, and paved the way for the Enlightenment, whose early thinkers such as Spinoza, Hobbes and Descartes were just over the horizon. That’s quite a guy.
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