Roger Bacon

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Roger Bacon
BirthplaceIlchester, Somerset
Friar, scholar

Bacon, Roger,

c.1214–1294?, English scholastic philosopher and scientist, a Franciscan. He studied at Oxford as well as at the Univ. of Paris and became one of the most celebrated and zealous teachers at Oxford. Bacon was learned in Hebrew and in Greek and stressed the value of knowing the original languages in the study of Aristotle and of the Bible. He may also have known Arabic; his own philosophy drew upon Arab Aristotelianism as well as upon St. Augustine. He had an interest far in advance of his times in natural science, in controlled experiments, and in the accurate observation of phenomena. "It is the intention of philosophy," he said, "to work out the natures and properties of things." He declared that mathematics was the gateway to science, and experience, or verification, the only basis of certainty. This belief in experience as a guide to the outer world was, however, not divorced from theology; wisdom and faith were to him one. His writings were numerous. Three of his most important works were written for Pope Clement IV in one year (1267–68)—the Opus majus (tr. 1928), the Opus minor, and the Opus tertium. He was deeply interested in alchemy, an interest that may account for his being credited by his contemporaries with great learning in magical practices. He was long credited with the invention of gunpowder (because of a formula for gunpowder that appeared in a work attributed to him). A manuscript in cipher, discovered in the 20th cent. and attributed to him, would make Bacon the first man to have observed spiral nebulae through a telescope and to have examined cells through a microscope; but considerable doubt has been cast on the original date and the authenticity of the manuscript. Earlier editions of his major works were supplemented by an edition of his hitherto unedited works in various fascicles by Robert Steele and others (1909–35).


See A. G. Little, ed., Roger Bacon Essays (1914, repr. 1972); biography by F. Winthrop Woodruff (1938); studies by T. Crowley (1950) and S. C. Easton (1952, repr. 1971).

Bacon, Roger


Born circa 1214 in Ilchester; died circa 1292 in Oxford. English philosopher and naturalist.

Bacon taught at the university in Oxford and belonged to the Franciscan Order. He planned a vast encyclopedia of knowledge, the preparatory work for which made up his Great Work, Smaller Work, and Third Work. Bacon believed that universals existed only in the One, which is not dependent on the general or on the principle of thought. By this means, Bacon emphasized not so much the subjectivity of the general (as did the adherents of nominalism) as the objectivity of the One. Not satisfied with the alchemists’ concept of a single “primal matter” without qualities, Bacon proposed the idea of qualitatively different elements, the combinations of which form concrete things. Bacon rejected the atomistic doctrine of the indivisibility of atoms and the doctrine of the vacuum. Criticizing the Scholastics, he saw the basis of all knowledge in experience, which can be of two kinds: inner (mystical “illumination”) and external. Bacon foresaw the great importance of mathematics, without which, in his opinion, not one science could exist, and he foresaw many discoveries, such as the telephone, self-propelled vehicles, and flying machines. He worked out a plan for a Utopian estate republic in which the source of power would be the plebiscite; he demanded the eradication of ignorance and the extension of secular education.


Opera hactenus inedita, fasc. 1-16. Oxford, 1909-40.


Trakhtenberg, O. V. Ocherki po istorii zapadno-evropeiskoi srednevekovoi filosofii. Moscow, 1957.
Little, A. G. Roger Bacon’s Life and Works. Oxford, 1914.
Easton, S. C. Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science. Oxford, 1952.
Heck, E. Roger Bacon. Bonn, 1957.


References in periodicals archive ?
LINDBERG, Roger Bacon and the Perspectiva in the Middle Ages (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996); Idem, Light, vision and the universal emanation of force, in Hacket, Roger Bacon and the sciences cit.
En su OpusMaius (1267), Roger Bacon establecio, ademas de un metodo para confirmar la veracidad de cualquier informacion, una forma de categorizar las ciencias, la filosofia, la moral y la etica, como base para ordenar todo el conocimiento humano.
The brass heads in Robert Greene's two plays, The Honorable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and Alphonsus, Prince of Aragon have their roots in Arabic sources, and the former derives specifically from legends concerning the thirteenth-century alchemist and philosopher Roger Bacon.
Sky News quoted Roger Bacon, whose 34-year-old son Matthew was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2005, said he found it hard to believe a man who was "unable to say sorry" at the Chilcot Inquiry was donating the funds "with a good heart".
Dr Hannam also considers the importance of individuals such as Roger Bacon, Richard of Wallingford, Galileo, Giordano Bruno and the leading astronomer and mathematician, Pope Sylvester II.
The good old Encyclopaedia Britannica reckons the philosopher Roger Bacon was the first person to record the use of lenses for optical purposes in 1268, but Wikipedia says he was beaten to it by the Emperor Nero's tutor Seneca the Younger in the first century AD.
For all my cavils, I greatly enjoyed his attempt to reconstruct the intellectual world of medieval luminaries such as Roger Bacon and Matthew Paris.
Roger Bacon, who lost his son Major Matthew Bacon in 2005 when a roadside bomb went off, is chairman of the group.
Roger Bacon had insisted that "knowledge of Arabic and Arabic science was the only way to true knowledge" (322), acknowledging Muslim genius.
The Walk was launched in 2003 by local businessman Roger Bacon, who emceed the annual ceremony and raised money for the event.
Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon of the Intelligence Corps, died on September 11, 2005 aged 34, described the emotions triggered by the artwork.
Saranyana), Tomas de Aquino (Adriano Oliva), Roger Bacon (Pia Antolic-Piper), Juan Duns Escoto (Chris Schabel), Nicolas de Cusa (Martin Thurner) y muchos otros.