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By Richard Foster Jones

Attractive, erudite research of upward push of clinical stream in 17th-century England; Francis Bacon’s function rather under pressure. Revised (1961) variation.

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Sample text

46 He stressed the rotation of the earth, because, believing that it was the result of terrestrial magnetism, he felt more interest in it. It is true, he believed in animism and judicial astrology, a link connecting him with his age, but such relics of fading doctrines did not in the least impair his assured faith in the experimental method nor invalidate his discoveries. His reputation was high with those who were qualified to appreciate his work, such as Edward Wright, William Barlow, and Nathaniel Carpenter, and on the continent no less a mind than Galileo's was stirred to the highest pitch of enthusiasm and praise.

Bacon, however, found another reason for the low qualifications he established for scientific brains, and that was the need to remove the despair which the moderns felt of ever equalling the ancients in mental powers because of the widespread belief in the decay of nature, an hallucination which rendered modern inferiority inevitable. In England the great lord chancellor came to be regarded as the champion of moder- -x- nity against the ancients, and he had much to do with the intellectual independence of his followers, but he never tried to equate modern and ancient genius.

The encouragement and stimulation derived from this attitude is by no means a negligible factor in the development of science during the mid-seventeenth century, though obscured by more tangible evidences of Bacon's influence. Sir Francis both expressed and molded his age. Before his scientific writings appeared, not only had significant discoveries been made, but also important elements of the movement itself had taken form, such as hostility to the authority of the ancients, and the importance of experiments, yet in England it was indeed moving slowly until he rang his bell, and as the century advances it assumes more and more a Baconian complexion.

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