Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/264

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256

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pended, he tells us, something like £2,000 (probably French pounds) in his experiments in natural philosoph}-, chemistry and astronomy. Experimental science v.as a new thing and Bacon may well claim to be its founder, though Ptolemy experimented on refraction, Galen on the nerves and muscles and the Arabs in various branches of science.

About the year 1240 Bacon became a friar of the order of St. Francis. If he had seen clearly, his career was made. Albertus Magnus and his great pupil, Thomas Aquinas, were the lights of the Dominican Order. The Franciscans would have welcomed and honored a champion who was the superior of Albert and the equal, or almost the equal, of Aquinas. But Bacon had only rough and bitter criticisms for all monks—Franciscans and Dominicans alike. His was an original and hardy genius; and he proved himself a merciless critic of all celebrities, of every accepted method and conclusion. Alexander of Hales, Doctor Irrefragabilis, was the oracle of the Franciscans. Of his Summa Theologiæ, Bacon says: It was a load for a horse—true—but—the reputed author did not write it. Albertus Magnus wrote libraries of books: All of them that were of any account, says Bacon, could be put in a single volume. Aquinas is vir erroneus et famosus. Of the other doctors, Michael Scot, he says, knew no Greek, Gerhard of Cremona, not even Latin, and William of Morbecke, the friend of Aquinas, was the most ignorant of all. St. Augustine and Origen were full of errors, and St. Jerome did not always understand the scriptures he translated.

"Never was there so great an appearance of wisdom, nor so much exercise of study as for this last forty years. Doctors are everywhere, in every castle, in every burgh, especially the students of the two Orders (Franciscan and Dominican). And yet there never was so much ignorance and error." He condemned the current versions of Aristotle—retranslations from the Arabic of translations once made into Syriac by Nestorian monks. "The common herd of students," he says, "mope and make asses of themselves over their bad translations and waste their time, their trouble and their money." In fact, he declares, "What the mass of men believe is necessarily false." As for the works of Aristotle, he would burn them all.

It is no wonder that Bacon was disciplined and imprisoned in Paris during the }ears 1257 to 1267. How severe his punishment was we shall never know. A part of it was rigorous. He was forbidden books and copyists, kept on bread and water. At times, however, he had pupils, copyists and some slight degree of liberty. He was condemned by a council of his order propter quasdam novitates suspectas—in reality because his harsh and innovating spirit diffused uneasiness all about him. It is charitable if we do not pronounce him envious. With Albertus Magnus and Aquinas he made up a trio of really great men,