Francis Bacon was born in Strand, London as the second of two sons to Sir Nicholas Bacon and his second wife, Anne. He spent most of his early life with his older brother near St. Albans in a location his father had purchased. A large part of Bacon’s education started at home, where he received both Christian and classic education from tutors such as John Walsall, a graduate of Christ Church. Bacon would later attend Trinity College, Cambridge from April 1573 until December 1575, where he would study under Dr. John Whitgift, the future archbishop of Canterbury; Whitgift would provide such classical texts as the Iliad, Plato and Aristotle, and some works by Cicero, among others. Because of the shift into Renaissance humanism, Bacon’s texts focused on philosophy, rhetoric, and history.
Bacon would travel abroad at the age of 15; one of these instances opened an opportunity for Bacon to stay with a civil lawyer, which would later influence his approach to legal thinking and reform. Bacon’s stay in France ended, however, upon his father’s death in February 1579. As the youngest son, Bacon received no money or title.
While studying law, Bacon was employed December 1580 as a translator. By his twentieth birthday, Bacon became one of the new members in parliament. Bacon also displayed increased sympathy to the Puritan plight in England and criticized his former tutor John Whitgift for his oppressive treatment of Puritans in a tract that became one of Bacon’s earliest extant longer writing. Another writing, “An advertisement touching the controversies of the Church of England” functioned as a keynote to Bacon’s political career, satirically tackling the conflict between the Church of England and nonconformists.
In the 1590s, Bacon developed an interest in natural philosophy, later producing works in the field. His first published philosophical work, The Two Bookes of Francis Bacon: of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, was his only philosophical work published in English. It was divided into two books: the first defending learning’s importance, while the other focused on the current state of human knowledge. The latter also suggested some methods for improvement. He focused on combining natural and experimental history in order to truly understand and uncover natural philosophy. He used his second book to suggest a reformed school to better align with these new ideas, invite potential patrons like Prince Henry to participate in the school’s development.
In 1609, Bacon published De sapientia veterum. It contained thirty-one myths and interpretations of those myths. He also wrote a tract in 1611 called “De principiis atque originibus,” which was meant to interpret myths and define principles and origins, but was unfinished. Another unfinished work, the “Descriptio globi intellectualis” surveyed the state of knowledge and learning.
Following an impeachment from Parliament, which resulted in Bacon going to the Tower, Bacon was forced to forfeit his lease to York House to Buckingham in order to regain control of his financial situation. In order to aid the appeal of his impeachment, Bacon wrote The History of the Reign of the King Henry VII, dedicated to Prince Charles and published in 1622. Bacon would go on to undertake many other works until his death in 1626 from inhaled nitre or opiates used to alleviate symptoms of illness.
Peltonen, Markku. “Bacon, Francis, Viscount St Alban (1561–1626).” Markku Peltonen Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Oct. 2007. 22 Sept. 2014 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/990>.