Francis Bacon, lawyer, statesman, and philosopher, remains one of the most effectual thinkers in European intellectual history. We can trace his influence from Kant in the 1700s to Darwin a century later. The Advancement of Learning, first published in 1605, contains an unprecedented and thorough systematization of the whole range of human knowledge. Bacon’s argument that the sciences should move away from divine philosophy and embrace empirical observation would forever change the way philosophers and natural scientists interpret their world.
Francis Bacon was born in London in 1561. A powerful member of Parliament and lord chancellor under King James I, he was among the first of the English philosophers. He died in 1626.
Stephen Jay Gould is the Alexander Agassiz professor of zoology and professor of geology at Harvard and the Vincent Astor visiting professor of biology at New York University. Recent books include Full House, Dinosaur in a Haystack, and Questioning the Millennium. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City.