Bacon, Roger

(ca. 1214–1292)
   It is generally believed that Roger Bacon was born in ca. 1214, in Ilchester, Somersetshire, to a wealthy family of minor nobility. Bacon received a firstrate education based on the LIBERAL ARTS curriculum of the trivium and quadrividium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic; arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy). He began university studies at Oxford at the age of 13, and there he studied under Robert GROSSETESTE, the university’s first chancellor. Grosseteste’s influence on Bacon is evident from the scholar’s experiments in the field of optics and study of Aristotelian ideas. Bacon traveled to France in ca. 1234, where he received the master of arts degree from the University of Paris sometime before 1239. At the university, he worked as a magister regens (regent master) of the Faculty of Arts where he focused on the currently unpopular works of Aristotle and was nicknamed Doctor Mirabilis, or Wonderful Teacher. Bacon soon resigned from teaching and returned to Oxford in ca. 1247, where he devoted his time to scientific study and experimentation.
   Shortly after his return, Bacon joined the Franciscan order. His reasons for becoming a friar are dubious—some say he was a holy person and that joining naturally suited Bacon’s character and temperament; others say he joined because of financial difficulties that made it necessary for him to gain patronage for his research. At first Bacon seemed content in the Franciscan order; however, when the order decreed that no Franciscan be allowed to publish without permission, Bacon was appalled. Bacon openly criticized his contemporary theologians and felt the world needed his revolutionary religious knowledge.Many members of the church disagreed with Bacon’s scholarly pursuits, and he disagreed with their disregard for philosophical, scientific, and other nontheological knowledge. Like St. AUGUSTINE, Bacon believed that Christians must learn from and make use of the teachings of pagan philosophers and other secular fields of scholarship. The Franciscans, known for their scholarly tradition, tolerated Bacon’s radical theological ideas for a while, but ultimately exiled him to a friary in Paris in ca. 1257 under the charge of heresy.
   By this time Bacon had produced the Communia naturalium, on science, and the Communia mathematicae, which recorded contemporary mathematical knowledge; however, he was forbidden from writing and publishing any new work while in exile. Determined to write and publish a massive encyclopedia including information on all of the then-current sciences, Bacon contacted Cardinal de Foulkes, who shortly became Pope Clement IV, and proposed the work. The pope mistakenly believed that Bacon had already written this text, and he asked Bacon to send him the scriptum principale, or comprehensive work on philosophy. When the work was not received, the pope issued a papal mandate for the work, a document that is still extant. In response to the pope’s requests, Bacon rapidly produced his greatest works: the Opus majus (Great work), the Opus minus (Smaller work), and the Opus tertium (Third work). Bacon’s 1272 Compendium philosophiae attacked the vices and ignorance of the clergy and the failings of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. But then in approximately 1278, Bacon was again imprisoned in a convent in Italy by the Franciscans under the charge that there were suspected novelties in his teaching.
   Bacon was ahead of his time: He was one of the first to predict explosives, automobiles, airplanes, submarines, and powered boats; he explained the principles of light, used a camera obscura to observe solar eclipses, conducted experiments in the field of optics and observed the refraction of light through lenses (which eventually led to the development of eyeglasses), and pointed out the need for calendar reform. He studied many fields extensively, including Greek and Hebrew, mathematics and science, magic and alchemy, astronomy and astrology, philosophy and theology. Roger Bacon’s health failed before he could finish his Compendium Studii Theologia, a work intended to stress the need to know Greek and Hebrew for the study of the Bible; nevertheless, his endeavor to finish the work shows that the scholar continued his passion for and devotion to the pursuit of knowledge until he died in 1292. The brilliance of Bacon’s avant-garde, unconventional ideas was not recognized until long after his death.
   ■ Bacon, Roger. Compendium of the Study of Theology. Edited and translated with introduction and notes by Thomas S. Maloney. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988.
   ■ ———. Opus Majus. Translated by Robert Belle Burke. 2 vols.New York: Russell and Russell, 1962.
   ■ ———.Roger Bacon’s Philosophy of Nature: A Critical Edition, with English Translation, Introduction, and Notes, of De multiplicatione specierum and De speculis comburentibus. Edited by David C. Lindberg. South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine’s Press, 1998.
   ■ Clegg, Brian. The First Scientist: A Life of Roger Bacon. New York: Carrol and Graf, 2003.
   ■ Easton, Stewart C. Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science: A Reconsideration of the Life and Work of Roger Bacon in the Light of His Own Stated Purposes. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952;Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1970.
   Leslie Johnston

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • BACON, ROGER° — (c. 1214–1294), English philosopher and Hebraist. Bacon studied at Oxford (probably) and – from 1236 at the latest – Paris. He learned Hebrew, and his transliterations, reflecting Sephardi pronunciation, imply Jewish assistance. Bacon s advanced… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Bacon,Roger — Bacon, Roger. Known as “Doctor Mirabilis.” 1214? 1292. English friar, scientist, and philosopher whose Opus Majus (1267) argued that Christian studies should encompass the sciences. * * * …   Universalium

  • Bacon, Roger — • Philosopher, born at Ilchester, Somersetshire, about 1214; died at Oxford, perhaps 11 June, 1294 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Bacon, Roger — born с 1220, Ilchester, Somerset, or Bisley, Gloucester?, Eng. died 1292, Oxford English scientist and philosopher. He was educated at Oxford and the University of Paris and joined the Franciscan order in 1247. He displayed a prodigious energy… …   Universalium

  • BACON (ROGER) —     Vous croyez que Roger Bacon, ce fameux moine du treizième siècle, était un très grand homme, et qu il avait la vraie science, parce qu il fut persécuté et condamné dans Rome à la prison par des ignorants. C est un grand préjugé en sa faveur,… …   Dictionnaire philosophique de Voltaire

  • Bacon, Roger — (c. 1214–c. 1292)    Philosopher and Scientist.    An Englishman, Bacon received much of his education in Paris. He joined the Franciscan Order in c. 1257 and was part of the household of Cardinal de Foulques, who was to become Pope Clement IV.… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Bacon, Roger — (c. 1214–1292) English philosopher and scientist, known as Doctor Mirabilis (‘marvellous doctor’). A member of the Franciscan order, Bacon began his career studying the previously forbidden works of Aristotle . However, he mixed his admiration… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Bacon, Roger — See Metaphysics and science in the thirteenth century …   History of philosophy

  • Bacon, Roger — ► (1214 94) Filósofo y naturalista inglés, llamado Doctor mirabilis. Expuso la necesidad de las matemáticas y del método experimental, que él mismo aplicó en su obra más importante, Opus maius (1265). Otras obras: Opus minus, Opus tertium,… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BACON, ROGER —    a Franciscan monk, born at Ilchester, Somerset; a fearless truth seeker of great scientific attainments; accused of magic, convicted and condemned to imprisonment, from which he was released only to die; suggested several scientific inventions …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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