The Bacon Brothers - Roger and Francis

600 Degrees of Separation?

~~ Paul V. Hartman ~~

      They had the same last name and lived three hundred years apart, and were probably unrelated, though, theoretically, everyone with the same last name should be related, trailing backwards far enough, if each in the chain took the father's name.

      But they are "brothers" because they both embraced philosophy and science and helped to establish the "rules" of scientific investigation for future generations of scientists. They were both English.

      One of them was an exceptional student at one of England's greatest universities, and delighted in mathematics, physics, and astronomy, and his scientific investigation was based on inductive reasoning, in which knowledge derives from observation and experiment toward the formulation of hypotheses, which could be further tested. His philosophical writings were filled with observations or discussions about Aristotle. He was a student of ancient languages. He was attracted to alchemy and the occult. Later in life he would be involved in scandal and be imprisoned. He remained single - there were no children.

      Actually, the above paragraph applies to both of them, indicating the number of parallels between them. Roger lived from 1214 to 1292, attended Oxford, and had great admiration for Aristotle. His major work was entitled "Opus Majus" or "longer work". He lived during the reign of Henry III. He was single because his religious order, the Franciscan monks, required it.

      Francis lived from 1561 to 1626, attended Cambridge, and believed Aristotelian philosophy was based on uncritical perceptions. His major work was entitled "Novum Organum" or "New Instrument". He lived during the reign of Elizabeth 1st. He was single because he was homosexual.

      Of the two, we know more about Francis, since he lived 300 years more recently. During his life he was better known as a statesman, advisor to Elizabeth and James the First, and held several government positions. He also wrote literary works, and is thought by a few literary historians to be the actual author of Shakespeare's  plays. He may have been the first Westerner to compose gunpowder from carbon, sulfur, and potassium nitrate. His last scientific act (this may be apocryphal) was an attempt to discover if snow could be used as a meat preservative. While stuffing a chicken with snow, he contracted pneumonia, and died at the age of 65.

      There is no indication that an American film actor of the same last name can claim descent from either of these men, now remembered best not for what they were praised for in life, but for their contributions to defining the principles of "modern science", setting the stage for the greatness of another Englishman by the name of Isaac Newton.

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