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The New Atlantis, by Sir Francis Bacon [1627], at


Bacon's literary executor, Dr. Rowley, published "The New Atlantis" in 1627, the year after the author's death. It seems to have been written about 1623, during that period of literary activity which followed Bacon's political fall. None of Bacon's writings gives in short apace so vivid a picture of his tastes and aspirations as this fragment of the plan of an ideal commonwealth. The generosity and enlightenment, the dignity and splendor, the piety and public spirit, of the inhabitants of Bensalem represent the ideal qualities which Bacon the statesman desired rather than hoped to see characteristic of his own country; and in Solomon's House we have Bacon the scientist indulging without restriction his prophetic vision of the future of human knowledge. No reader acquainted in any degree with the processes and results of modern scientific inquiry can fail to be struck by the numerous approximations made by Bacon's imagination to the actual achievements of modern times. The plan and organization of his great college lay down the main lines of the modern research university; and both in pure and applied science he anticipates a strikingly large number of recent inventions and discoveries. In still another way is "The New Atlantis" typical of Bacon's attitude. In spite of the enthusiastic and broad-minded schemes he laid down for the pursuit of truth, Bacon always had an eye to utility. The advancement of science which he sought was conceived by him as a means to a practical end the increase of man's control over nature, and the comfort and convenience of humanity. For pure metaphysics, or any form of abstract thinking that yielded no "fruit," he had little interest; and this leaning to the useful is shown in the practical applications of the discoveries made by the scholars of Solomon's House. Nor does the interest of the work stop here. It contains much, both in its political and in its scientific ideals, that we have as yet by no means achieved, but which contain valuable elements of suggestion and stimulus for the future.

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