Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/165

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alchemist who happened upon some inventions, but more recent investigation has shown him to be one of the great masters in the evolution of human thought. The advance of sound historical judgment seems likely to bring the fame of the two who bear the name of Bacon nearer to equality. Bacon of the chancellorship and of the Novum Organum may not wane, but Bacon of the prison-cell and the Opus Major steadily approaches him in brightness.

More than three centuries before Francis Bacon advocated the experimental method, Roger Bacon practiced it, and the results as now revealed are wonderful. He wrought with power in many sciences, and his knowledge was sound and exact. By him, more than by any other man of the middle ages, was the world brought into the more fruitful paths of scientific thought—the paths which have led to the most precious inventions; and among these are clocks, lenses, burning specula, telescopes, which were given by him to the world, directly or indirectly. In his writings are found formulæ for extracting phosphorus, manganese, and bismuth. It is even claimed, with much appearance of justice, that he investigated the power of steam, and he seems to have very nearly reached some of the principal doctrines of modern chemistry. But it should be borne in mind that his method of investigation was even greater than its results. In an age when theological subtilizing was alone thought to give the title of scholar, he insisted on real reasoning and the aid of natural science by mathematics; in an age when experimenting was sure to cost a man his reputation, and was likely to cost him his life, he insisted on experimenting, and braved all its risks. Few greater men have lived. As we read the sketch given by Whewell of Bacon's process of reasoning regarding the refraction of light, he seems divinely inspired.

On this man came the brunt of the battle. The most conscientious men of his time thought it their duty to fight him, and they fought him steadily and bitterly. His sin was not disbelief in Christianity, not want of fidelity to the Church, not even dissent from the main lines of orthodoxy; on the contrary, he showed in all his writings a desire to strengthen Christianity, to build up the Church, and to develop orthodoxy. He was attacked and condemned mainly because he did not believe that philosophy had become complete, and that nothing more was to be learned; he was condemned, as his opponents expressly declared, "on account of certain suspicious novelties"—"propter quasdam novitates suspectas."

Upon his return to Oxford, about 1250, the forces of unreason beset him on all sides. Greatest of all his enemies was Bonaventura. This enemy was the theologic idol of the period: the