Article ID: CBB204107949

The Philosopher and the Craftsman: Francis Bacon’s Notion of Experiment and Its Debt to Early Stuart Inventors (2017)


The key role that Francis Bacon played in the reevaluation of mechanical arts is a well-established tenet of the scholarship on the Scientific Revolution. However, scholars tend to assume that Bacon’s knowledge of technologies and their methods came from learned texts and that he lacked familiarity with the crafts of his time. By contrast, this essay shows that Bacon’s philosophical discussion of experimentation owes a large debt to his concrete knowledge of early Stuart craftsmen applying for royal privileges and patents for new technical inventions. Bacon personally supervised the drafting of many of these privileges. In his philosophical work, he adapted legal requirements—devised to identify inventions unambiguously—to describe and analyze experimental practices. This evidence directly affects the long-standing debate on the role of crafts in the rise and development of early modern science. In the case of Francis Bacon, it is possible to find a concrete and precise connection between crafts methodologies and the philosophical description of experimentation.

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Authors & Contributors
Jalobeanu, Dana
Pastorino, Cesare
Rusu, Doina-Cristina
Merchant, Carolyn
Anstey, Peter R.
Cassan, Elodie
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
British Journal for the History of Science
Perspectives on Science
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Indiana University
Cornell University Press
Experiments and experimentation
Natural philosophy
Natural history
Experimental method
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Boyle, Robert
Della Porta, Giovan Battista
Hooke, Robert
Bacon, Francis
Bodin, Jean
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
Early modern
Great Britain
Royal Society of London

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