Sunday, January 6, 2008

Francis Bacon's Solomon House-The New Atlantis

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English lawyer, statesman, philosopher, and writer.

Bacon's utopia, 'The New Atlantis' was not published until after his death in 1627. He tells of the discovery of the New Atlantis, a utopian island set beyond both the Old World and New.

Solomon's House is a research establishment on the island. In Solomons House science is a collaborative undertaking, conducted in a rational and impersonal way, for the material benefit of mankind.

The New Atlantis precedes science fiction, a genre of utopian and dystopian writing which deals with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals.

Bacon describes the various departments and riches of Solomon's House:

Burials in several earths...high towers, the highest about half a mile in height...great lakes...artificial wells and fountains...large baths for the cure of diseases...orchards and gardens...parks and pools...bread houses and bake houses...dispensaries or shops of medicines...mechanical arts...furnaces...perspective houses (light)...precious stones...sound-houses...perfume houses...engine houses...a mathematical house...

Bacon raises the question of the link between knowledge and power. Knowledge gives people power over others. Bacon's scientists were depicted as moral paragons but also ordinary humans, and so fallible and open to corruption. This raises questions about how society controls those citizens that have powerful, potentially dangerous, knowledge.

Taken from: The Works of Francis Bacon
Creator: Francis Bacon
Publisher: W Baynes & Son
Date created: 1824
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board

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