Francis Bacon (1561–1626) is known for being the father of the modern scientific method. A lawyer and philosopher, Bacon spent his early career engaged in political matters. After holding the position of Lord Chancellor for two years, Bacon was banished from public office as a result of accepting bribes. After his political career, Bacon shifted his attention to matters of science.
Bacon believed that men needed to use their powers of reason and observation to improve the situation of mankind. He reacted against the traditional medieval view that science was inferior to theology and believed that men needed to understand and control the laws of nature. From this belief came his famous statement, “Knowledge is power.” Although not the greatest scientist, nor the first to undertake scientific pursuits, Bacon was a pioneer for science in that he actively called for and pursued a systematic scientific method.
In his work Novum Organum Bacon argued for an inductive method of observation in which continual observation and experimentation should be conducted. He also asserted that prejudices and preconceived ideas, which he called “idols,” should be abandoned. According to Bacon there were four idols to be avoided. First, there are ‘idols of the tribe’ in which people misread the laws of nature. Second, there are ‘idols of the cave’ which refer to the subjective views of a person. Third, there are ‘idols of the marketplace’ in which a loose use of language hinders the advance of reason. And fourth, there are ‘idols of theatre’ in which tradition hinders the pursuit of truth.
Bacon viewed science as a social activity and desired to set up a college equipped with laboratories and botanical and zoological gardens. Interestingly, Bacon died as a result of trying to stuff a chicken with snow. He stuffed the chicken with snow to test his theory that freezing could preserve meat.