Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (22 January 1561 ? 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman, and essayist. He is also known as a proponent of the scientific revolution. Indeed, according to John Aubrey, his dedication may have brought him into a rare historical group of scientists who were killed by their own experiments.
His works established and popularized an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method or simply, the scientific method. In the context of his time such methods were connected with the occult trends of hermeticism and alchemy. Nevertheless, his demand for a planned procedure of investigating all things natural marked a new turn in the rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, much of which still informs conceptions of proper methodology today.
Bacon was knighted in 1603, created Baron Verulam in 1618, and created Viscount St Alban in 1621; without heirs, both peerages became extinct upon his death. He has been credited as the creator of the English essay.
Francis Bacon was born at York House, Strand, London. He was the youngest of five sons of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Elizabeth I. His mother, Ann Cook, was Sir Nicholas's second wife. She was a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke and a member of the Reformed Puritan Church. His (maternal) aunt married William Cecil (Lord Burghley), the chief minister of Queen Elizabeth I.
Biographers believe that Bacon received an education at home in his early years, and that his health during that time, as later, was delicate. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1573 at the age of twelve, living for three years there with his older brother Anthony.
At Cambridge he first met the Queen, who was impressed by his precocious intellect, and was accustomed to call him "the young Lord Keeper".
There also his studies of science brought him to the conclusion that the methods (and thus the results) were erroneous. His reverence for Aristotle conflicted with his dislike of Aristotelian philosophy, which seemed to him barren, disputatious, and wrong in its objectives.
On 27 June 1576, he and Anthony were entered de societate magistrorum at Gray's Inn, and a few months later they went abroad with Sir Amias Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France under Henry III afforded him valuable political instruction.
The sudden death of his father in February 1579 necessitated Bacon's return to England, and seriously influenced his fortunes. Sir Nicholas had laid up a considerable sum of money to purchase an estate for his youngest son, but he died before doing so, and Francis was left with only a fifth of that money. Having started with insufficient means, he borrowed money and became habitually in debt. To support himself, he took up his residence in law at Gray's Inn in 1579.
Bacon's goals were threefold: discovery of truth, service to his country, and service to the church. Knowing that a prestigious post would aid him toward these ends, in 1580 he applied, through his uncle, Lord Burghley, for a post at court which might enable him to devote himself to a life of learning. His application failed, and for the next two years he worked quietly at Gray's Inn giving himself seriously to the study of law, until admitted as an outer barrister in 1582. In 1584 he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorset, and subsequently for Taunton (1586). He wrote on the condition of parties in the church, and he wrote down his thoughts on philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus, but he failed to obtain a position of the kind he thought necessary for his own success.
In the Parliament of 1586 he took a prominent part in urging the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. About this time he seems again to have approached his powerful uncle, the result of which may possibly be traced in his rapid progress at the bar, and in his receiving, in 1589, the reversion to the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, a valuable appointment, the enjoyment of which, however, he did not enter into until 1608.
During this period Bacon became acquainted with Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1567?1601), Queen Elizabeth's favorite. By 1591 he was acting as the earl's confidential adviser. Bacon took his seat for Middlesex when in February 1593 Elizabeth called a Parliament to investigate a Roman Catholic plot against her. His opposition to a bill that would levy triple subsidies in half the usual time (he objected to the time span) offended many people; he was accused of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. When the Attorney-Generalship fell vacant in 1594 and Bacon became a candidate for the office, Lord Essex's influence could not secure him the position; in fashion, Bacon failed to become solicitor in 1595. To console him for these disappointments, Essex presented him with a property at Twickenham, which he subsequently sold for £1800, the equivalent of around £240,000 today.
Memorial to Francis Bacon, in the chapel of Trinity College, CambridgeIn 1596 he was made a Queen's Counsel, but missed the appointment of Master of the Rolls. During the next few years, his financial situation remained bad. His friends could find no public office for him, a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow Lady Elizabeth Hatton failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. His standing in the queen's eyes, however, was beginning to improve. He gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant and received no salary. His relationship with the queen also improved when he severed ties with Essex, a fortunate move considering that the latter would be executed for treason in 1601; and Bacon was one of those appointed to investigate the charges against him, and examine witnesses, in connection with which he showed eagerness in pressing the case against his former friend and benefactor. This act Bacon endeavoured to justify in A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons, etc., of ... the Earl of Essex, etc. He received a gift of a fine of £1200 on one of Essex's accomplices.
The accession of James I brought Bacon into greater favour; he was knighted in 1603, and endeavoured to set himself right with the new powers by writing his Apologie (defence) of his proceedings in the case of Essex, who had favoured the succession of James. Bacon was present at the state opening of parliament in 1605, which would have all but certainly made him a victim of the Gunpowder Plot had it succeeded. The following year, during the course of the uneventful first parliament session Bacon married Alice Barnham.
In 1608, Bacon entered upon the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, and was in the enjoyment of a large income; but old debts and present extravagance kept him embarrassed, and he endeavoured to obtain further promotion and wealth by supporting the king in his arbitrary policy. However, Bacon's services were rewarded in June 1607 with the office of Solicitor. In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Despite Bacon's advice to him, James and the Commons found themselves frequently at odds over royal prerogatives and the king's embarrassing extravagance, and the House was dissolved in February 1611. Through this Bacon managed in frequent debate to uphold the prerogative, while retaining the confidence of the Commons. In 1613, Bacon was finally able to become attorney general, by dint of advising the king to shuffle judicial appointments; and in this capacity he would prosecute Somerset in 1616. The parliament of April 1614 objected to Bacon's presence in the seat for Cambridge ? he was allowed to stay, but a law was passed that forbade the attorney-general to sit in parliament ? and to the various royal plans which Bacon had supported. His obvious influence over the king inspired resentment or apprehension in many of his peers.
Bacon continued to receive the King's favour, and in 1618 was appointed by James to the position of Lord Chancellor. His public career ended in disgrace in 1621 when, after having fallen into debt, a Parliamentary Committee on the administration of the law charged him with corruption under twenty-three counts. To the lords, who sent a committee to inquire whether the confession was really his, he replied, "My lords, it is my act, my hand, and my heart; I beseech your lordships to be merciful to a broken reed." He was sentenced to a fine of £40,000, remitted by the king, to be committed to the Tower of London during the king's pleasure (his imprisonment in fact lasted only a few days). More seriously, Lord St Alban was declared incapable of holding future office or sitting in parliament. He narrowly escaped being deprived of his titles. Thenceforth the disgraced viscount devoted himself to study and writing.
It has been argued by Nieves Mathews that Bacon was in fact innocent of the bribery charges; Bacon himself claimed he was forced to plead guilty so as to save King James from a political scandal, stating:
I was the justest judge, that was in England these last fifty years. When the book of all hearts is opened, I trust I shall not be found to have the troubled fountain of a corrupt heart. I know I have clean hands and a clean heart. I am as innocent of bribes as any born on St Innocents Day.
Bacon married, at the age of forty five, Alice Barnham (1592?1650), the fourteen year old daughter of a well-connected London alderman and M.P. Reports of increasing friction in his marriage to Alice Barnham appeared, with speculation that some of this may have been due to financial resources not being as readily available to Alice as she was accustomed to having in the past. Alice was reportedly interested in fame and fortune, and when reserves of money were no longer available, there were complaints about where all the money was going. A. Chambers Bunten wrote in Life of Alice Barnham  that, upon their descent into debt, she actually went on trips to ask for financial favors and assistance from their circle of friends. Francis disinherited her upon discovering her secret romantic relationship with John Underhill. He rewrote his will, which had previously been very generous to her (leaving her lands, goods, and income), to revoke it all.
Several contemporary commentators discussed other aspects of Bacon's love life, addressing his alleged relationships with other males. The first known instance of public reaction to his behavior was in 1619, when the ire of the church itself was aroused by Bacon's doings: a minister of the time preached a public sermon in which he inveighed against the scandal caused by Bacon's "catamites," as recorded in a published transcript.
Simonds d'Ewes discusses Bacon's habits in his Autobiography. In the entry for May 3rd, 1621 he writes: His most abominable and darling sinne I should rather burie in silence, than mencion it, and then proceeds to mention it: yet would he not relinquish the practice of his most horrible & secret sinne of sodomie, keeping still one Godrick, a verie effeminate faced youth, to bee his catamite and bedfellow. This practice he deems not a rare indulgence: his unnaturall crime, which hee had practiced manie yeares, deserting the bedd of his Ladie, which hee accounted, as the Italians and the Turkes doe, a poore & meane pleasure in respect of the other.
According to d'Ewes, this behavior was known to a number of other contemporaries, leading to calls for his being brought to trial: & it was thought by some, that hee should have been tried at the barre of justice for it, & have satisfied the law most severe against that horrible villanie with the price of his bloud; which caused some bold and forward man to write these verses following in a whole sheete of paper, & to cast it down in some part of Yorkehouse in the strand, wheere Viscount St. Alban yet lay:
Within this sty a *hogg doth ly,
That must be hang'd for Sodomy.
(*alluding both to his sirname of Bacon, & to that swinish abominable sinne.)
Bacon's homosexual relationships, according to contemporary descriptions, appear to have been primarily with his household servants. Among these is one Henry Percy, who was bequeathed the large sum of £100 and for whom he wrote a letter to the Secretary of State recommending the man to his Majesty's service, one of the very last letters he wrote. This is thought to be the same Percy of whom Bacon's mother wrote, irately, that bloody Percy who was kept yea as a coach companion and a bed companion.
John Aubrey, in his Brief Lives, a work that was written in the late sixteen hundreds, after Bacon's death, notwithstanding his generally favorable attitude towards the philosopher, asserts he "was a pederast" and had "ganimeds and favourites."
A number of modern authors, such as historians A. L. Rowse, Rictor Norton, and Professor of English and Comparative Literature Alan Stewart, conclude that he did indeed have homosexual inclinations.
Bacon biographer Nieves Mathews, author of Francis Bacon: The History of a Character Assassination, , strongly contested those claims. She does not agree that the primary sources show any evidence of homosexuality in Bacon's life, and that terms such as "coach companion" had a completely different meaning than what other recent authors claim the meaning to be.
Monument to Bacon at his burial place, St Michael's Church in St AlbansIn March 1626, Lord St Alban came to London. Continuing his scientific research, he was journeying to Highgate through the snow with the King's physician when, as John Aubrey recounts in Brief Lives, he was suddenly inspired by the possibility of using the snow to preserve meat. According to Aubrey "They were resolved they would try the experiment presently. They alighted out of the coach and went into a poor woman's house at the bottom of Highgate hill, and bought a fowl, and made the woman exenterate it". After stuffing the fowl with snow, he happened to contract a fatal case of pneumonia. He then attempted to extend his fading lifespan by consuming the fowl that had caused his illness. Some people, including Aubrey, consider these two contiguous, possibly coincidental events as related and causative of his death: "The Snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that he could not return to his Lodging ...but went to the Earle of Arundel's house at Highgate, where they put him into ... a damp bed that had not been layn-in ... which gave him such a cold that in 2 or 3 days as I remember Mr Hobbes told me, he died of Suffocation." He died at Lord Arundel's home in Highgate on 9 April 1626, leaving assets of about £7,000 and debts to the amount of £22,000.
Works and philosophy
Bacon's works include his Essays, as well as the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae, all published in 1597. His famous aphorism, "knowledge is power", is found in the Meditations. He published The Proficience and Advancement of Learning in 1605. Bacon also wrote In felicem memoriam Elizabethae, a eulogy for the queen written in 1609; and various philosophical works which constitute the fragmentary and incomplete Instauratio magna, the most important part of which is the Novum Organum (published 1620); in this work he cites three world-changing inventions:
"Printing, gunpowder and the compass: These three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, in so much that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries." 
In 1623 Bacon's aspirations and ideals were expressed in The New Atlantis in his creation of an ideal land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendor, piety and public spirit" were the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants of Bensalem. In this work, he portrayed a vision of the future of human discoverty and knowledge. The plan and organization of his ideal college, "Solomon's House", envisioned the modern research university in both applied and pure science.
Bacon did not propose an actual philosophy, but rather a method of developing philosophy; he wrote that, whilst philosophy at the time used the deductive syllogism to interpret nature, the philosopher should instead proceed through inductive reasoning from fact to axiom to law. Before beginning this induction, the inquirer is to free his mind from certain false notions or tendencies which distort the truth. These are called "Idols" (idola), and are of four kinds: "Idols of the Tribe" (idola tribus), which are common to the race; "Idols of the Den" (idola specus), which are peculiar to the individual; "Idols of the Marketplace" (idola fori), coming from the misuse of language; and "Idols of the Theatre" (idola theatri), which result from an abuse of authority. The end of induction is the discovery of forms, the ways in which natural phenomena occur, the causes from which they proceed.
Bacon's somewhat fragmentary ethical system, derived through use of his methods, is explicated in the seventh and eighth books of his De augmentis scientiarum (1623). He distinguishes between duty to the community, an ethical matter, and duty to God, a purely religious matter. Any moral action is the action of the human will, which is governed by reason and spurred on by the passions; habit is what aids men in directing their will toward the good. No universal rules can be made, as both situations and men's characters differ.
Bacon distinctly separated religion and philosophy, though the two can coexist. Where philosophy is based on reason, faith is based on revelation, and therefore irrational ? in De augmentis he writes that "the more discordant, therefore, and incredible, the divine mystery is, the more honour is shown to God in believing it, and the nobler is the victory of faith." And yet he writes in "The Essays: Of Atheism" that "a little philosophy inclineth man?s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men?s minds about to religion", suggesting he continued to employ inductive reasoning in all areas of his life, including his own spiritual beliefs.
Bacon contrasted the new approach, of the development of science, with that of the Middle Ages. He once said, to top it all off: "Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world."
Bacon and Shakespeare
The Shakespeare authorship question, which ascribes the famous plays to various contemporaries instead of Shakespeare of Stratford, has produced a large number of candidates, of whom Bacon is one of the most popular. An 1888 two-volume book, "The Great Cryptogram", by American journalist and adventurer Ignatius Donnely, had much to do with this. Donnely developed complex numerical schemes for working out hidden messages within the plays, but his methods "were so flexible that one could literally use them to obtain any desired text." Donnely himself used them to discover that Bacon had written not only Shakespeare, but Montaigne and Marlowe as well. After Donnely the Baconian theory became extremely popular and gave birth to many further studies of Bacon's cipher. Edward Clark's late 19th century "The Tale of the Shakspere Epitaph by Francis Bacon" referred to an inscription on a bust of Shakespeare which he asserted concealed the sentence, "FRA BA WRT EAR AY", an abbreviation of "Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays." Another author,Francis Carr, has suggested that Bacon wrote not only Shakespeare's plays but Don Quixote as well, while Dr Orville Owen, in his monumantal (5 volumes) "Francis Bacon's Cipher Story" (1893-95), recounted his success in using a special machine to prove Bacon the true author of Shakespeare and the son of the Earl of Leicester and Elizabeth I. Even Mark Twain was a Baconian arguing vigorously for Bacon and ridiculing the "Stratfordolators" and the "Shakespearoids" in "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1909).
Influences up to the present
Bacon's ideas about the improvement of the human lot were influential in the 1630s and 1650s among a number of Parliamentarian scholars. During the Restoration, Bacon was commonly invoked as a guiding spirit of the new-founded Royal Society. In the nineteenth century his emphasis on induction was revived and developed by William Whewell, among others.
Various authors     have written that there were indications that Francis Bacon had gone into debt while secretly funding the publishing of materials for the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, "Spear-Shakers", "Knights of the Helmet", as well as publishing (with the assistance of Ben Jonson) a selection of the plays that they claim he had written under the pen name of "Shake-Speare" in a "First Folio" in 1623. Furthermore, they allege that Bacon faked his own death and crossed the English Channel in disguise, continuing to write under pseudonyms, as he had done before in England, as late as 1670. 
Bacon was ranked #90 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history.
Francis Bacon's influence can also be seen on a variety of religious and spiritual authors, and on groups that have utilized his writings in their own belief systems. Beginning early in the 20th century in the U.S.A., a number of Ascended Master Teachings organizations     began making the claim that Francis Bacon had never died. They claimed that soon after completing the "Shake-Speare" plays, he had feigned his own death on Easter Sunday 1626 and then traveled extensively outside of England, eventually attaining his physical Ascension on May 1, 1684 in the region of the Carpathian Mountains.  Their belief is that Bacon took on the name "Saint Germain" as an Ascended master
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