Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 2013
The Creative Role of Experimentation in Early Modern Science
Francis Bacon and the Institutions for the Promotion of Knowledge and Innovation
This paper analyzes Francis Bacon’s observations on institutions for the advancement of knowledge and technical innovation. Early references to
establishments for the promotion of knowledge can be found initial in Bacon’s early works, in the 1590s. Bacon’s journey to France in the second half of the
1570s played a role in shaping these early conceptions. In particular, Bacon was likely acquainted with Jaques Gohory’s Lycium philosophal and Nicholas Houel’s Maison de Charité Chrétienne. In the period following the composition of The Advancement of Learning (1605), Francis Bacon focused his attention on the foundation of a college for inventors. Practical plans for the establishment of a college were discussed in the Commentarius solutus (1608). Bacon’s proposals addressed his general concerns for the production of technological innovation in Stuart society; both the college of the Commentarius and the imaginary institution of Salomon’s House in the New Atlantis (1626) can be seen as inventor’s utopias, where innovators are freed from the pressures of the world of crafts. Analogous continental project likely inspired such institutions. Again, the case of France may be relevant; around the time of Bacon’s proposals for his college, Henri IV was actively fostering collaboration among skilled inventors under royal patronage, and outside the strict control of the guild system.