- 1. Dates
- Born: London, 22 Jan.1561
- Died: near London, 9 April 1626
- Dateinfo: Dates Certain
- Lifespan: 65
- 2. Father
- Occupation: Government Official
- Sir Nicholas Bacon was Lord Keeper of the Seal under Elizabeth. Francis
was the second son by his second wife; by his first wife Sir Nicholas
had had six children, three of them sons.
- 3. Nationality
- Birth: England
- Career: England
- Death: England
- 4. Education
- Schooling: Cambridge
- Trinity College, Cambridge University , 1573-1575. Bacon left Cambridge
without a degree.
- After three years in the residence of the English ambassador in Paris,
he entered Gray's Inn.
- 5. Religion
- Affiliation: Anglican.
- Bacon's mother was a thorough Calvinist. He adhered to the middle
road of the Church of England, however, neither authoritarian nor sectarian.
His religion was more formal than fervent.
- 6. Scientific Disciplines
- Primary: Natural Philosophy
- Already at Cambridge, when he was not yet fifteen years old, Bacon
fell out of love with Aristotelianism, which he saw as a philosophy
that produced only disputes.
- 7. Means of Support
- Primary: Government
- Personal Means, Law, Patronage
- He married well at a crucial stage of his career (1607).
He lived with the English ambassador in Paris, 1576-9.
Enrolled at Gray's Inn, 1579. Barrister, 1584. Bencher, 1586. Although
Bacon was never primarily a lawyer (except perhaps for the crown),
he did practice some; around 1610 he was earning about L1200 per annum
from his practice.
Returned to Parliament in 1584, he served in Commons until his elevation
to the peerage.
Clerk of Star Chamber, 1589- . This was a governmental position with
a salary of L1600 per annum. However, what Bacon received in 1589
was the reversion of the position when the current incumbent died.
He had to wait nineteen years. Finally in 1608 he entered upon the
Under Elizabeth Bacon functioned as a Queen's Counsel, but without
an official appointment. He never got the appointment he desired and
pursued under Elizabeth.
From 1592 to 1601 Bacon was in Essex's service. Except for one well
documented gift, Bacon's financial reward (as opposed to Essex's influence
to promote his career) is unclear, or better wholly undocumented.
Given Bacon's lack of income commensurate with his aspirations, I
find it difficult to believe that he did not receive other rewards,
in keeping with the universal practices of patronage, for the constant
advice, formally composed, that he tendered to Essex, for the masques
he composed, etc.
With the accession of James things began to look up. He was appointed
to the commission to consider union with Scotland, and became a King's
Counsel with a pension of L60.
Solicitor General, 1607, with salary of L1000.
Appointed Attorney General, 1613.
Appointed member of Privy Council, 1616. Appointed Lord Keeper of
the Great Seal, 1617. Appointed Lord Chancellor, 1618-21. Created
Lord Verulam in 1618 and Viscount St. Alban in 1621.
Impeached for bribery in 1621.
- 8. Patronage
- Type: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Government Official
- Bowen (p.19) has a nice statement about the expectations that Bacon
derived from his birth. They appear to have followed him all of his
life and to have shaped his constant pursuit of royal patronage, which
alone could fulfill his aspirations. See in connection with this the
scene of splendor that followed his induction as Lord Keeper (Bowen,
p. 152. See also pp. 160-2.) See also the comments on the splendor of
As a boy he was a favorite of Elizabeth, who delighted in his knowledge.
His original appointments undoubtedly derived from the position and
influence of his father, who died when he was eighteen. It is worth
noting that the Queen admitted Bacon to the rank of Barrister early,
He dedicated his Maxims of the Law, one of his early compositions,
which was not published at the time but did circulate in manuscript
form, to Queen Elizabeth.
Cecil, who was his uncle, aided his rise modestly; probably he obtained
Bacon's appointment as clerk of Star Chamber. However, Cecil had his
own son, Robert, to look out for, and it appears that the two Cecils
viewed Bacon as competition. In fact Bacon did not thrive until the
accession of James, and more after the death of Robert Cecil, Lord
At age 31 (1592, just before he entered Essex's service) Bacon wrote
to Burghley seeking a position. The letter is one of the more eloquent
statements of the needs driving patronage (as it related here also
to Bacon's intellectual goals) that I have seen. See the poem by his
brother Anthony about what was necessary to thrive at court.
Bacon enjoyed the patronage of Essex, who headed a court faction
opposed to the Cecils, 1592-1601. His brother Anthony was also in
Essex's service. For Essex Bacon organized masques intended to influence
the Queen (the arts used for propaganda). See especially his masque,
Praise of Knowledge, as a statement of the importance of the intellectual.
See also the entertainment at Gray's Inn, Christmas 1594, that Bacon
composed in which the advantages of philosophy are extolled. And the
masque he composed in 1595. (Along these lines see also the letters
Bacon wrote to all the important people offering his services when
Fames came to the throne.) Essex presented Bacon with a valuable property
(worth about L1800) when he failed a second time (1595) to get him
a position. Bacon's role in the trial of Essex is well known and has
been the subject of much comment. See Bacon's own statement about
it (1604) for evidence in regard to the obligations that the position
of client entailed.
After the succession of James, James aided his career and knighted
him. Bacon dedicated The Advancement of Learning (1605) to James in
an effort to gain patronage. He was a client of James' favorites,
the Earl of Somerset and later Buckingham, and they aided his ascent
of the ladder of state. See Bacon's composition Commentarius solutus,
1608, in which he set down, inter alia, the means by which to rise
in the court.
He dedicated the Instauratio magna (1620) to James, with a call to
James to assume the role of patron of natural philosophy. James' letter
in response said that Bacon could not have sent him a more acceptable
gift. After Bacon's fall, James remitted his fine and continued his
pension of L1200. See Bacon's letter to James when he was made Viscount
St. Alban. It details the steps of James' patronage to him.
As Lord Chancellor Bacon himself exercised broad powers of patronage
in regard to appointments (Bowen, p. 154.)
See the prayer that Bacon composed for himself after his condemnation
in 1621--on his waste of the talents entrusted to him as he pursued
false ends (partly quoted in Bowen, pp. 194- 5). See also some of
Bacon continued to court the royal family and favorites after his
fall. He dedicated the History of Henry VII to Prince Charles (one
source says James) and the third edition of his Essays to Buckingham.
- 9. Technological Involvement
- Types: None
- 10. Scientific Societies
- Membership: None
- Friends: Bishop Andrewes, Thomas Harriot, Sir W. Raleigh, L. Poe,
- F.H. Anderson, Francis Bacon, His Career and His Thought, (Los
Angeles, 1962). B1198 A48 J.G.
- Crowther, Francis Bacon, the First Statesman of Science, (London,
- Benjamin Farrington, Francis Bacon, Philosopher of Industrial
Science, (New Yor, 1949).
- Catherine Drinker Bowen, Francis Bacon: The Temper of a Man, (Boston,
- Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University
Press, 1949-1950), 1, 800-32.
- Compiled by:
- Richard S. Westfall
- Department of History and Philosophy of Science
- Indiana University
Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue
cannot answer email on geneological questions.