Sir Francis Bacon's scientific method

A guide for doing good science as originated by Sir Francis Bacon 1561-1626

1st Edition. Copyright © 2017 by David Stringer.

Sir Francis Bacon

In 1620, Sir Francis Bacon, a senior British statesman and philosopher, produced a book called 'Novum Organum' or New Method. Bacon starts by arguing that intellectual effort at understanding nature, in his time, was indistinguishable from any other intellectual effort such as the studies of justice and ethics. The study of such subjects was mostly about the application of existing knowledge. The physical workings of the natural world were different, he argued. Nature was out there. It was whatever it was. We couldn't decide how we would like it to be, as we could shape our morals and make new laws.

He proposed two streams of philosophical thinking. One should be about improvement and/or diversity of our understanding of existing knowledge. The other should be about the discovery of new knowledge. The reason for making such a distinction was to ensure that the search for new knowledge was not prejudiced by any possible errors in our existing knowledge, understandings and interpretations.

The specifics of the "Baconian Method" are not practised by Science today but the principles on which he based his method are still applied. The New Method starts by listing these principles as a set of pithy statements which form a sort of guide for doing science.

I paraphrase these statements as follows: