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Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam, 1561-1626, English philosopher, writer, and statesman.

Bacon began his studies at Cambridge at the age of twelve, entered Gray's Inn to study law at the age of fifteen, and was elected to Parliament when he was twenty-three. He served in the court of Queen Elizabeth, and survived a number of political entanglements thanks to the support of the Earl of Essex -- whom he later prosecuted for treason.

Shortly after the succession of James in 1603, Bacon was knighted, and took a number of important political posts: Solicitor-General in 1609, Attorney-General in 1613, Keeper of the Great Seal in 1617, and finally Lord Chancellor in 1618. He was rewarded, moreover, by being created Baron Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Albans in 1621.

In that year, though, Bacon fell from political grace after being convicted of accepting bribes, and he turned full-time to the less public career of writing. Although he never completed his magnum opus, the Instauratio magna -- a massive philosophical treatise on all fields of knowledge, defending the importance of empiricism and induction and criticizing the authority of Aristotle in scientific matters -- he did write two parts, the Advancement of Learning (1605) and Novum Organum (1620), both important works in the development of modern scientific method: Robert Boyle, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke, Voltaire, and Denis Diderot all expressed their debt to Bacon.

His less formal Essays (1597-1625) are among the earliest examples of the genre in English. Wollstonecraft quotes from Essay 16 in Chapter 2 and from Essay 8 in Chapter 4.