Plate Tectonics and People

Francis Bacon

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<h3>Eric Zeppenfeld</h3>
<h3>Biographical Information</h3>
<p>Francis Bacon was born in London in 1561, and was thought to have been tutored at home (due to continuing poor health) before entering Trinity College at age 12. After travels and study overseas, he entered Parliament, later serving as Attorney General, and Lord Chancellor of England.</p>
<div class="img-center"><img alt="Francis Bacon" src="/earth520/sites/
<div class="img-caption">Francis Bacon, by Frans Pourbus (1617)</div>
<div class="img-credit">Image Source: <a href=" Commons</a></div>
<p>A noted statesman, philosopher, essayist and author, jurist, orator and scientist, Bacon was influential in the court of Elizabeth I. He was knighted, and later made Viscount St Alban by James I.</p>
<p>As a scientist/philosopher, Bacon was a leading Empiricist, and formulated inductive methods of scientific investigation. The “Baconian Method” required hypotheses that could be tested by observation and experiment rather than speculative theory and rhetoric.</p>
<p>In 1626, Bacon died from pneumonia, leaving no heirs.</p>
<p>Trinity College, Cambridge</p>
<p>University of Poitiers</p>
<p><strong>Noted works:</strong></p>
<p><em>Essays</em> (1597, 1612, 1625)</p>
<p><em>Novum Organum Scientiarum</em>(1620)</p>
<p><em>New Atlantis</em> (1627)</p>
<h3>Specific contributions to the theory of plate tectonics and/or our modern view of the solid Earth</h3>
<p>Though the name Francis Bacon often appears first in the list of forerunners to the theory of Continental Drift, his actual contribution is very brief, and its nature and value sometimes questioned. In what could be considered Bacon’s greatest work,<em> </em><em>Novum Oganum</em> (Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1620) he simply notes the similarity of the continents of the 'Old World' (Africa) and 'New World' (South America).</p>
<div class="img-right"><img alt="" src="/earth520/sites/
<p>Bacon’s observations were that the continents had similar shape, with wide land mass in the north, tapering to the south; the Horn of Africa was similar to the eastern most point in Brazil; there were similarities in parts of the western coasts of both continents. (Noted in Book 2, section 27).</p>
<p>Unlike the 16<sup>th</sup> century Flemish geographer, Abraham Ortelius, Bacon did not explicitly state that South America and Africa could have ‘fit’ together, nor did he offer any hypothesis on how the continents would have separated.</p>
<p>As for solid Earth science, Bacon’s cosmology consisted of a ‘dynamic’ universe, with the Earth being ‘passive’ from its center to its crust (op. cit., section 36). In a comment relating to the nature of heat, Bacon stated “We have no sensory evidence about the bowels of the earth…” (op. cit., section 33) So, as he had no sensory experience of the Earth's interior, he made no speculation on it, nor offered any hypothesis on such phenomena as earthquakes.</p>
<p>Bacon noted arguments for a ‘static’ and ‘rotating’ Earth, and the nature of tides. He accepted astronomer William Gilbert’s understanding of the Earth’s magnetic poles, with finite magnetic fields (op. cit., section 35).</p>
<p><em>Novum Organum</em> (1620)</p>
<div class="img-center"><img alt="" src="/earth520/sites/"> <img alt="" src="/earth520/sites/">
<div class="img-caption">Unlike Ortelius, Bacon did not explicitly state that he observed continental 'fit' (left). He did observe similarities in shape and coastline (right).</div>
<div class="img-credit">(Drawings from Antonio Snider-Pellegrini, 1858).</div>
<h3>Other important scientific contributions</h3>
<p>While Bacon’s observations and lack of speculation did not advance the theory of plate tectonics or solid Earth science, his philosophy of science did. Bacon is rightly credited as the founder of modern Scientific Method.</p>
<p>Francis Bacon has been called the <em>Father of Empiricism</em>, a school of thought that holds that knowledge comes through sensory experience. Hypotheses must be proven by empirical evidence, involving observations, and experiments showing consistent results that conform to predictions and expectations of the hypotheses.This requirement for actual experiences and physical evidence, not merely rhetoric and speculative theory, is considered to mark the beginning of the modern Scientific Method.</p>
<p>As for being a contributor to plate tectonics and solid Earth science, Bacon’s early work in the development of the Scientific Method has proven far more valuable than his observations on the shape of continents.</p>
<h3>Other cool stuff you should know</h3>
<p>From time to time the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays has been questioned, and Francis Bacon is often cited as the real author. The latest theory, which claims a collaboration of authors, including Bacon, was put forward by American author Delia Bacon – who is not related to Sir Francis.</p>
<p>Bacon was an inventor, relying on experimental evidence to prove his ideas. His death is said to have resulted from illness following an experiment with cold storage of meat: he died of pneumonia after catching a cold while stuffing a chicken with snow.</p>
<p>Bacon, F. (1620). Novum Organum Scientarum, retrieved from <a href=""></a&...
<p>BBC America (2011)
<p><em>Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy</em>, article ‘Bacon’, retrieved from <a href="">http://plato.s...
<p>The European Graduate School, article ‘Bacon’, retrieved from <a href="">http://www....
<p>University of Oregon, article ‘Plate Tectonics’, retrieved from <a href="">http...
<p>Wikipedia, articles ‘Bacon’, ‘Novum Organum’, ‘Empiricism’, retrieved from <a href=""></a><...
<p>Wolford, K. (n.d.) <em>Francis Bacon and the Scientific Revolution</em>, retrieved from
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