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New Atlantis

Sir Francis Bacon. New Atlantis: A Worke Unfinished. London, 1627.

 

 

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FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626)
New Atlantis

Lord Chancellor from 1618 to 1621, Francis Bacon was the founder of modern scientific method. He believed that science and technology could be harnessed to benefit mankind. His utopian work, New Atlantis, describes a society centered on a specialist research institution called variously the College of the Six Day’s Works and Salomon’s House. This institution directly inspired the creation of the Royal Society in 1662.

The first thorough treatment of the potential benefits of modern science is to be found in New Atlantis. It was a work of propaganda for a revolutionary view of the role of science in society; as Bacon wrote, “the end of our foundation is the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging bounds of the Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible.” The heart of Bacon’s utopia is the single-minded, even ruthless, pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Navigation, which had greatly advanced since Thomas More’s day, was an important metaphor for discovery and progress in Bacon’s writings. The scientist in New Atlantis had replaced the philosopher ruler of Plato’s Republic, although Bacon, like More and Plato before him, proved himself a true utopian with the words, “We must begin anew from the very foundations, unless we would revolve for ever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress.”

 

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