FRANCIS BACON by Perez Zagorin


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An erudite investigation into the work of the man regarded as the founder of the Scientific Revolution, this volume attempts to tie together Bacon’s many writings, not only on science, but also on language, morals, politics, rhetoric, law, and history. From the outset, Zagorin, a professor of history emeritus at the University of Rochester, clearly states that it is not his intention to write a biography of Bacon, who has been the subject of numerous and recent biographies. However, he does provide a tantalizing glimpse of Bacon’s personal life, as well as his flawed character. Much to his credit, Zagorin demythologizes Bacon by detailing his political ambitions and ruthless opportunism. Yet the glimpse is all too brief, and while this biographical introduction informs the rest of the book, Zagorin’s later readings of Bacon would have benefited from a more integrated approach toward his life and his work. The bulk of the book is a thorough interpretation of that work and its impact. Zagorin illustrates in a sound and convincing manner how Bacon’s philosophy and theory of science had a far-reaching effect on the growth of science. While Bacon made no scientific discoveries of his own, he did believe that science provided humankind with the instrument to master nature. Finally, at the end of the book, the author delves into Bacon’s less known works in the humanities, proving that in these fields, too, Bacon was an original and often brilliant thinker. As a legal scholar, for instance, Bacon sought to devise a universal system that went beyond English common law. Though lucidly written, this book still requires a knowledge of Bacon’s work as formidable as Zagorin’s. A valuable work for the serious Bacon scholar, but not for the layperson. (20 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-691-05928-4
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998