Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Weighing experience: Francis Bacon, the inventions of the mechanical arts, and the emergence of modern experiment
by Pastorino, Cesare, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2011, 246; 3456489
Abstract (Summary)

This is a study of the links between Francis Bacon and the technical experimenters and projectors of the early Stuart age, and of Bacon's philosophy of technical invention and experiment. This project reappraises the literature on the role of mechanical arts in Francis Bacon. In the past, scholars often maintained that Bacon's knowledge of mechanical arts was limited to learned sources and authors of Renaissance technical treatises, and that his actual links with artisans and entrepreneurs of his time were negligible. This research shifts attention to early Stuart society, and to Bacon's concrete involvement in economic and institutional activities. A major aspect of this work is the study of a set of early modern archival records, the "privileges" for new industrial processes and patents of inventions that Francis Bacon reviewed while a Solicitor and Attorney General during the reign of James I. While Elizabethan privileges for inventions are well documented, this group of early Stuart institutional documents has never been properly analyzed before this investigation. Also, Bacon's role as a patent referee has hardly been mentioned in literature. A scrutiny of this new evidence has shown that Francis Bacon was close to a network of early Stuart mining projectors and assayers, technical practitioners, and inventors of the mechanical arts. Francis Bacon's familiarity with the world of craftsmen significantly contributed to the development of his philosophy. Important methodological features of the "works" of mechanical arts were absorbed into Bacon's system. An analysis of the central concept of experientia literata (Literate Experience), the key notion behind Bacon's influential experimental histories, shows that Bacon developed this idea paying close attention to the actual practices of mechanical artisans of his time. Bacon's enquiry of dense and rare is the best example of an application of the quantitative research program of experientia literata. Bacon‘s ideas on this issue can be tied to experiments for the determination of specific gravities developed in a monetary context. Overall, Bacon‘s program of quantification calls for a revision of Thomas Kuhn‘s sharp dichotomy between a mathematical and a Baconian experimental tradition in seventeenth-century science.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Newman, William R.
Commitee: Bertoloni Meli, Domenico, Field, Arthur, Sargent, Rose-Mary
School: Indiana University
Department: History and Philosophy of Science
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: European history, Philosophy of Science, Science history
Keywords: Bacon, Francis, Experience, Experiment, Inventions, Mechanical arts, Patents
Publication Number: 3456489
ISBN: 978-1-124-66026-4
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