Nothing could be less true than that Lord Bacon had any serious influence in bringing about the introduction of the inductive method into science. At most he was a chronicler of tendencies that he saw in the science of his day. It is true that his writings served to give a certain popular vogue to the inductive method, or rather a certain exaggerated notion of the import of experiment to those who were not themselves scientists. Bacon was a popular writer on science, not an original thinker or worker in the experimental sciences. Popularizers in science, alas! have from Amerigo Vespucci down reaped the rewards due to the real discoverers.

Induction in the genuine significance of the word had been recognized in the world long before Bacon’s time and been used to much better effect than he was able to apply it. Personally, I have always felt that he has almost less right to all the praise that has been bestowed on him for what he is supposed to have done for science, than he has for any addition to his reputation because of the attribution to him by so many fanatics of the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. It is rather difficult to understand how his reputation ever came about…De Maistre, in his review of Bacon’s Novum Organum, points out that this work is replete with prejudices; that Bacon makes glaring blunders in astronomy, in logic, in metaphysics, in physics, in natural history, and fills the pages of his work with childish observations, trifling experiments, and ridiculous explanations. Our own Professor Draper, in his Intellectual Development of Europe, has been even more severe, and has especially pointed out that Bacon never received the Copernican System, but “with the audacity of ignorance he presumed to criticise what he did not understand, and with a superb conceit disparaged the great Copernicus.”–“The more closely we examine the writings of Lord Bacon,” he says farther on, “the more unworthy does he seem to have been of the great reputation which has been awarded to him. . . The popular delusion, to which he owes so much, originated at a time when the history of science was unknown. This boasted founder of a new philosophy could not comprehend and would not accept the greatest of all scientific discoveries when it was plainly set before his eyes.”

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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