Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294) (scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, meaning "wonderful teacher"), was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods. He is sometimes credited, mainly starting in the 19th century, as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method inspired by the works of Aristotle and later Arabic works, such as the works of Muslim scientist Alhazen. However, more recent reevaluations emphasize that he was essentially a medieval thinker, with much of his "experimental" knowledge obtained from books, in the scholastic tradition. A survey of the reception of Bacon's work over centuries found that it often reflects the concerns and controversies central to the receivers.

Roger Bacon was born in Ilchester in Somerset, England, possibly in 1213 or 1214 at the Ilchester Friary. The only source for his date of birth is his statement in the Opus Tertium, written in 1267, that "forty years have passed since I first learned the alphabet". The 1214 birth date assumes he was not being literal, and may have meant 40 years had passed since he matriculated at Oxford at the age of 13. If he had been literal, his birth date was more likely to have been around 1220/1222. In the same passage he reports that for all but two of those forty years he had always been engaged in study. His family appears to have been well-off, but, during the stormy reign of Henry III of England, their property was despoiled and several members of the family were driven into exile.

Bacon studied at Oxford and may have been a disciple of Grosseteste. He became a master at Oxford, lecturing on Aristotle. There is no evidence he was ever awarded a doctorate — the title Doctor Mirabilis was posthumous and figurative. Sometime between 1237 and 1245, he began to lecture at the university of Paris, then the centre of intellectual life in Europe. His whereabouts between 1247 and 1256 is uncertain, but about 1256 he became a friar in the Franciscan Order. As a Franciscan friar, Bacon no longer held a teaching post, and after 1260 his activities were further restricted by a Franciscan statute prohibiting friars from publishing books or pamphlets without specific approval.

Bacon circumvented this restriction through his acquaintance with Cardinal Guy le Gros de Foulques, who became Pope Clement IV in 1265. The new pope issued a mandate ordering Bacon to write to him concerning the place of philosophy within theology. As a result Bacon sent the Pope his Opus Majus, which presented his views on how the philosophy of Aristotle and the new science could be incorporated into a new Theology. Besides the Opus maius Bacon also sent his Opus minus, De multiplicatione specierum, and, perhaps, other works on alchemy and astrology.

Pope Clement died in 1268. Sometime between 1277 and 1279, Bacon was probably imprisoned or placed under house arrest. The circumstances for this are still mysterious. Sometime after 1278 Bacon returned to the Franciscan House at Oxford, where he continued his studies. He is believed to have died in 1294.

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Roger Bacon Quotes

All science requires mathematics. The knowledge of mathematical things is almost innate in us.... This is the easiest of sciences, a fact which is obvious in that no one's brain rejects it; for laymen and people who are utterly illiterate know how to count and reckon.
Roger Bacon (c. 1214-c. 1294), British philosopher, scientist. Opus Maius, pt. 4, ch. 1 (1267).

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