Francis Bacon Contributions and Legacy

Joseph Comunale, Max Pfingsten
  • Author
    Joseph Comunale

    Joseph Comunale obtained a Bachelor's in Philosophy from UCF before becoming a high school science teacher for five years. He has taught Earth-Space Science and Integrated Science at a Title 1 School in Florida and has Professional Teacher's Certification for Earth-Space Science.

  • Instructor
    Max Pfingsten

    Max has an MA in Classics, Religion, Philosophy, Behavioral Genetics, a Master of Education, and a BA in Classics, Religion, Philosophy, Evolutionary Psychology.

Explore what Francis Bacon is known for and learn about his ideas, discoveries, and theories. Discover Francis Bacon's significant contributions to science. Updated: 07/13/2022

Table of Contents


What is Francis Bacon Known for?

Francis Bacon is popularly known for being a philosopher and specifically contributing to philosophy surrounding the nature of science and epistemology, or the study of knowledge. Bacon has been called the father of empiricism, which is the idea that knowledge comes from the senses. Francis Bacon's theory was that scientific knowledge must come from the careful observation of nature filtered through inductive reasoning. His philosophy of science was revolutionary for Bacon's time when the most widely accepted authority on truth and knowledge of the universe was the Bible and the Church. Though Bacon did not make many scientific discoveries, his scientific philosophy was particularly optimistic and influential. His philosophy was optimistic regarding science, and he technically predicted the Scientific Revolution, which came some decades after his death.

A sketched portrait of Francis Bacon

A sketched portrait of Francis Bacon in his typical hat he was known for wearing.

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561, in London, England. Bacon received much of his education at home due to his poor health in his youth. At the age of 12, Bacon was accepted into Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. His studies continued until his father's death, which caused Bacon to move back to England. At around 21, Bacon began his parliamentary career and began a path toward becoming a statesman, which eventually led him to serve as the Lord High Chancellor of England from 1618 to 1621.

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What Did Francis Bacon Do?

Francis Bacon is most notable for his philosophy surrounding the nature of science. Bacon contributed greatly to helping define the nature of science and the scientific method. He was a fan of Aristotle but also rejected much of Aristotle's ancient Greek philosophy. Bacon was of the devout Anglican Christian faith but believed that attributes of God such as actions, nature, and intentions could not be known through the same means as understanding creation. What could be known was the nature of the universe, and to Bacon, knowledge through inductive reasoning was the path to understanding creation. The Creator could only be understood through divine or special revelation.

Bacon's conception of scientific experimentation relied on the means of observations and induction based on the observations made. According to Francis Bacon, ''the nature of a thing in the thing itself'' cannot be successfully investigated without enlarging the scope of the investigation to things that have connections or commonality with the thing under investigation. Though observations are exceptionally important in order to do science, the actual discoverable knowledge comes from using inductive reasoning in regard to observations made. Knowledge cannot be obtained purely through observations.

The Benefits of Experimental Science

Francis Bacon's main contribution to science was his view that obtaining scientific knowledge relied on scientific experimentation. Bacon pointed out that nature is chaotic and full of variables. Something as simple as a leaf falling from a tree is influenced by so many different natural phenomena. The leaf is influenced by the laws of gravity, by the laws of thermodynamics and inertia that govern the wind, and through the geometry and aerodynamics of the leaf itself. So many laws and phenomena interact with each other in nature to amount to certain outcomes or observations. How can seekers of knowledge hope to learn anything from nature when there is so much disorder and seeming randomness surrounding natural phenomena?

Francis Bacon proposed a solution to the problem of understanding nature by expressing that the factors of nature must be controlled in order to understand them. Bacon proposed scientifically controlled experiments. By controlling the factors of an experiment, Bacon argued that the experiment could then easily be repeated and measured. For example, if one wanted to study how plants react to freezing, it would be best to put a plant in a freezer and record one's observations instead of observing plants freezing in the winter, which would be more difficult.

It would also be very difficult to study gravity by observing many leaves falling from trees in the wild. Instead, it would be better to simply take a single leaf and repeatedly drop it from the same height in order to make one's observations. By focusing on one leaf, the observer eliminates the variables, such as the shape and mass of the leaves. Once working with dropping one leaf, it would become immediately apparent that the leaf does not fall the same way with each drop; the wind and air resistance changes the path of the leaf as it falls in each attempt.

To eliminate the variable of the air resistance, the experimenter can use a vacuum-sealed container such as a bell jar. A leaf dropped within a container without air will be unaffected by air resistance, and the leaf's shape will not influence its path or acceleration toward the ground. In this controlled version of a leaf falling, the leaf will always fall in the exact same way because of the lack of air resistance. In this controlled experiment, the experimenter can observe that the leaf accelerates toward the ground at a rate of 9.8 meters per second squared every time it is released and allowed to fall.

The experiment can even be taken further to help a truth seeker discover more information regarding the nature of gravity. By replacing the leaf with other objects in the experiment, it would become apparent that all objects fall to the Earth at the same acceleration when uninfluenced by air resistance; subsequently, a law of gravity is discovered. Francis Bacon never actually performed the aforementioned leaf experiment and did not discover the aforementioned law of gravity. It was not until a few decades after Francis Bacon explained his approach to the nature of scientific investigation that Isaac Newton would use it to discover and mathematically describe the laws of gravity observed on Earth.

Francis Bacon became known for his philosophy regarding scientific experimentation. The best approach to understanding nature is to take the questioned things out of nature and into a controlled environment. From there, a researcher can easily experiment with the various aspects of nature and phenomena they intend to understand without all the information noise and chaos in natural settings.

Francis Bacon Contributions

Francis Bacon's contribution to science goes beyond his approach to the scientific method and experimentation. He is also known for his character. Francis Bacon is described as being incredibly optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of science and humanity. He envisioned that humanity would solve all of its problems through the scientific method and application of science. To Bacon, problems such as famine, disease, and homelessness could all be solved through the use of science and innovation. Bacon's optimism foresaw a future where humanity would be in a constant state of invention and continuous advancements in technology, which he describes in his vision of the future titled New Atlantis.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What did Francis Bacon change?

Francis Bacon changed much of the outlook on science. Much of his predecessors saw understanding God as the only way to understand nature. Bacon argued that one cannot understand God, but can understand creation through observation, experimentation, and inductive reasoning.

What is Francis Bacon most famous for?

Francis Bacon is most famous for his philosophy of science. He argued that scientific knowledge is obtained after making observations and then utilizing inductive reasoning to interpret the observations. Bacon also argued that controlled scientific experimentation is essential for understanding nature.

What was Francis Bacon's theory?

Francis Bacon's theory of science is that natural phenomena can be understood through controlling various factors of nature in experimentation in order to pin down the phenomenon that is intended to be understood. His philosophy of science placed a high value on inductive reasoning as the means through which to navigate and interpret observations.

What is Francis Bacon's scientific method?

Francis Bacon's scientific method involves utilizing controlled experiments to make observations. The experimenter needs to control and tinker with the various factors of nature in order to make further observations. The experimenter needs to then utilize inductive reasoning to interpret observations made in an experiment.

What did Francis Bacon discover?

Francis Bacon is not known for making scientific discoveries. Instead, he is best known for establishing a significant part of scientific philosophy and science methodology. It can be said that Bacon helped discover the scientific method.

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