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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Roger Bacon

Roger (c1214-1294) came from a wealthy background. His parents sided with Henry III against the rebellious Barons to no avail as their property was despoiled and several members of the family were driven into exile.

The short-sighted Bacon was one of the first westerners to uses lenses to help him see more clearly.

Bacon was known as Doctor Mirabilis, "The Admirable Doctor" because of his many diverse interests.

He suggested that artists could use geometry to create the illusion of three dimensional reality and thereby convince onlookers they were truly witnessing the events depicted. As a result three-dimensional images depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi were painted on a new basilica in Assisi. Such was the realistic effect that it became the most visited church in Europe.

Bacon introduced the gunpowder formula to Europe in 1242. It originated in China and was also known previously in Arabia. His recipe for gunpowder was Saltpetre 41%. Charcoal 29.5% Sulphur 29.5%. Mixed together it would imitate lightning and cause explosions.

Bacon was the first scholar to suggest that medicine should rely on remedies provided by chemistry.

He believed in the possibility of transmuting inferior metals into gold. Bacon regarded alchemy as the most valuable of the sciences "because it produced greater utilities."

He joined the Franciscan Order in 1257. He was theologically conservative but outspoken and he frequently got into trouble for saying what he thought. Bacon saw theology as the supreme area of knowledge.

The outspoken Friar sent some of his more controversial writings to the Pope but they upset the church and  he was excommunicated and imprisoned by for "certain novelties". He was confined to a monastery.
The "certain novelties" the authorities were particularly unhappy about were his chemical research.

The prophetic Friar foresaw the extensive use of cars, aeroplanes and ocean liners. He conducted studies that led him to the conclusion that air could support craft in the same way that water supports boats.

In 1278 the general of the Franciscan order, Girolamo Masci, later Pope Nicholas IV, forbade the reading of Bacon's books and had Bacon arrested. After ten years in prison, Bacon returned to Oxford.

Bacon claimed that saffron delayed ageing and he went as far as to send the Pope these instructions. (He was 76 at the time.)

Bacon is the Patron Saint of Encyclopedia Salesmen.

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