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

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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.



And as for Mixed Mathematics, I may only make this prediction, that there cannot fail to be more kinds of them, as nature grows further disclosed.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In Advancement of Learning (1605), Book 2. Collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1765), Vol. 1, 61.
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Another diversity of Methods is according to the subject or matter which is handled; for there is a great difference in delivery of the Mathematics, which are the most abstracted of knowledges, and Policy, which is the most immersed ... , yet we see how that opinion, besides the weakness of it, hath been of ill desert towards learning, as that which taketh the way to reduce learning to certain empty and barren generalities; being but the very husks and shells of sciences, all the kernel being forced out and expulsed with the torture and press of the method.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Advancement of Learning, Book 2. In James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1863), Vol. 6, 292-293 . Peter Pešić, explains that 'By Mathematics, he had in mind a sterile and rigid scheme of logical classifications, called dichotomies in his time,' inLabyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science (2001), 73.
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For it being the nature of the mind of man (to the extreme prejudice of knowledge) to delight in the spacious liberty of generalities, as in a champion region, and not in the enclosures of particularity; the Mathematics were the goodliest fields to satisfy that appetite.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In De Augmentis, Bk. 8; Advancement of Learning, Bk. 2.
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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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Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
— Sir Francis Bacon
'L. Of Studies,' Essays (1597). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 55.
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If a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again.
— Sir Francis Bacon
Translation in Francis Bacon, James Spedding (ed.) et al., Works of Francis Bacon (1858) Vol. 6, 498.
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If one be bird-witted, that is easily distracted and unable to keep his attention as long as he should, mathematics provides a remedy; for in them if the mind be caught away but a moment, the demonstration has to be commenced anew.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In De Augmentis, Bk. 6; Advancement of Learning, Bk. 2.
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It has come to pass, I know not how, that Mathematics and Logic, which ought to be but the handmaids of Physic, nevertheless presume on the strength of the certainty which they possess to exercise dominion over it.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From De Augmentis Scientiaurum as translated in Francis Guy Selby, The Advancement of Learning (1893), Vol. 2, 73.
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Mathematic is either Pure or Mixed: To Pure Mathematic belong those sciences which handle Quantity entirely severed from matter and from axioms of natural philosophy. These are two, Geometry and Arithmetic; the one handling quantity continued, the other dissevered. … Mixed Mathematic has for its subject some axioms and parts of natural philosophy, and considers quantity in so far as it assists to explain, demonstrate and actuate these.
— Sir Francis Bacon
In De Augmentis, Bk. 3; Advancement of Learning, Bk. 2.
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Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; other to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores. [The studies pass into the manners.]
— Sir Francis Bacon
'Of Studies' (1625) in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1887-1901), Vol. 6, 498.
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The study of nature with a view to works is engaged in by the mechanic, the mathematician, the physician, the alchemist, and the magician; but by all (as things now are) with slight endeavour and scanty success.
— Sir Francis Bacon
From Novum Organum (1620), Book 1, Aphorism 5. 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, 47-48.
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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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