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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Sir Francis Bacon Quotes > Invention

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Sir Francis Bacon
(22 Jan 1561 - 9 Apr 1626)

English philosopher remembered for his influence promoting a scientific method. He held that the aim of scientific investigation is practical application of the understanding of nature to improve man’s condition.



...those experiments be not only esteemed which have an immediate and present use, but those principally which are of most universal consequence for invention of other experiments, and those which give more light to the invention of causes; for the invention of the mariner's needle, which giveth the direction, is of no less benefit for navigation than the invention of the sails, which give the motion.
— Sir Francis Bacon
The Second Book of Francis Bacon of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning (1605). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 200
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...to invent is to discover that we know not, and not to recover or resummon that which we already know.
— Sir Francis Bacon
The Second Book of Francis Bacon of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning (1605). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 209
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And yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it may be compared to the husbandman whereof Æsop makes the fable, that when he died he told his sons that he had left unto them gold buried under the ground in his vineyard: and they digged over the ground, gold they found none, but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature as for the use of man's life.
— Sir Francis Bacon
The Advancement of Learning (1605, 1712), Vol. 1, 15.
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Another argument of hope may be drawn from this–that some of the inventions already known are such as before they were discovered it could hardly have entered any man's head to think of; they would have been simply set aside as impossible. For in conjecturing what may be men set before them the example of what has been, and divine of the new with an imagination preoccupied and colored by the old; which way of forming opinions is very fallacious, for streams that are drawn from the springheads of nature do not always run in the old channels.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Translation of Novum Organum, XCII. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 8, 128.
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As the birth of living creatures are ill shapen; so are all innovations, which are the births of time.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From essay, 'Of Innovations'. As collected and translated in The Works of Francis Bacon (1765), Vol. 1, 479.
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For many parts of Nature can neither be invented with sufficient subtlety, nor demonstrated with sufficient perspicuity, nor accommodated to use with sufficient dexterity, without the aid and intervention of Mathematic: of which sort are Perspective, Music, Astronomy, cosmography, Architecture, Machinery, and some others.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In De Augmentis, Bk. 3; The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 3. As translated in Francis Bacon, ‎James Spedding and ‎Robert Leslie Ellis, 'Of the great Appendix of Natural Philosophy, both Speculative and Operative, namely Mathematic; and that it ought rather to be placed among Appendices than among Substantive Sciences. Division of Mathematic into Pure and Mixed', The Works of Francis Bacon (1858), Vol. 4, Chap. 6, 371.
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It is well to observe the force and virtue and consequence of discoveries, and these are to be seen nowhere more conspicuously than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, and of which the origins, although recent, are obscure and inglorious; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the magnet. For these three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, insomuch that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 129. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 114.
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Men are rather beholden ... generally to chance or anything else, than to logic, for the invention of arts and sciences.
— Sir Francis Bacon
The Advancement of Learning (1605) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 3, 386.
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Moreover, the works already known are due to chance and experiment rather than to sciences; for the sciences we now possess are merely systems for the nice ordering and setting forth of things already invented; not methods of invention or directions for new works.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 8. Translated as The New Organon: Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man), collected in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 4, 48.
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Never any knowledge was delivered in the same order it was invented.
— Sir Francis Bacon
'Of the Interpretation of Nature' (c.1603) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 3, 248.
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The art of invention grows young with the things invented.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Quoted by Bacon as a Maxim. As given in Gurney Benham, A Book of Quotations, Proverbs and Household Words (1907), 494.
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The dignity of this end of endowment of man's life with new commodity appeareth by the estimation that antiquity made of such as guided thereunto ; for whereas founders of states, lawgivers, extirpators of tyrants, fathers of the people, were honoured but with the titles of demigods, inventors ere ever consecrated among the gods themselves.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Bacon and Basil Montagu (Ed.), 'Fragments of Valerius Terminus, on the Interpretation of Nature', Works of Bacon (1825), vol. 1., 266. Quoted in The Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt (1854), Vol.1, 2.
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The industry of artificers maketh some small improvement of things invented; and chance sometimes in experimenting maketh us to stumble upon somewhat which is new; but all the disputation of the learned never brought to light one effect of nature before unknown.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In The Works of Francis Bacon (1740), Vol. 1, 69.
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Time is the greatest innovator.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From essay, 'Of Innovations' (1625). As collected and translated in The Works of Francis Bacon (1765), Vol. 1, 479.
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See also:

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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