Roger Bacon 1214-1294, England and France, pioneer of science and faith

Hi Max,

Have you heard of Bacon? Roger Bacon, that is, not Francis? He is another in the series of pioneers of science who were also people of faith. Cheers.

Roger Bacon 1214-1294, England and France

was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods. He taught at Oxford and Paris in the founding phase of these two great centres of learning, where he won the scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, meaning "wonderful teacher". He is sometimes credited, mainly starting in the 19th century, as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired by Aristotle , Robert Grosseteste, and later Arabic scholars, such as those of Muslim scientist Alhazen.[2]

He was a forerunner in Calendar Reformation, based on his calculation of the actual length of the earth’s rotation around the sun.

He urged all theologians to study all sciences closely, and to add them to the normal university curriculum. With regard to the obtaining of knowledge, he strongly championed experimental study over reliance on authority, arguing that "thence cometh quiet to the mind". Bacon did not restrict this approach to theological studies. He rejected the blind following of prior authorities, both in theological and scientific study, which was the accepted method of undertaking study in his day.

The study of optics in part five of Opus Majus draws heavily on the works of both Claudius Ptolemy (from Arabic translation) and the Islamic scientists Alkindus (al-Kindi) and Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham).[2][39] He includes a discussion of the physiology of eyesight, the anatomy of the eye and the brain, and considers light, distance, position, and size, direct vision, reflected vision, and refraction, mirrors and lenses. His research in optics was primarily oriented by the legacy of Alhazen through a Latin translation of the latter’s monumental Kitab al-manazir (De aspectibus; Perspectivae; The Optics), while the impact of the tradition of al-Kindi (Alkindus) was principally mediated through the influence that this Muslim scholar had on the optics of Robert Grosseteste. Moreover, Bacon’s investigations of the properties of the magnifying glass partly rested on the handed-down legacy of Islamic opticians, mainly Alhazen, who was in his turn influenced by Ibn Sahl‘s 10th-century legacy in dioptrics.[40]

Argument is conclusive… but… it does not remove doubt, so that the mind may rest in the sure knowledge of the truth, unless it finds it by the method of experiment. For if any man who never saw fire proved by satisfactory arguments that fire burns. his hearer’s mind would never be satisfied, nor would he avoid the fire until he put his hand in it that he might learn by experiment what argument taught.

For the things of this world cannot be made known without a knowledge of mathematics.


One thought on “Roger Bacon 1214-1294, England and France, pioneer of science and faith

  1. As a Franciscan, I wonder why you – and others would do the same – have chosen so many Franciscan thinkers from this period. Franciscan scholars speak of a ‘Franciscan intellectual tradition’ which often elicits derisive laughter, but trace an impressive line from Bonaventure to Dun Scotus to Grosseteste (teacher of Franciscans) to William of Ockham and Francis Bacon and there’s a pattern. I wonder if an approach to the natural world arises out of the spirituality of the Canticle of the Sun which combines wonder at the beauty and providence of creation with an analysis of how it works…. It’s this sort of change in thinking that your series overall is tracing. I think your idea of short biographies is effective and fascinating. I hope it makes a successful book.

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