Roger Bacon, an English Franciscan scholar, born near Ilchester, Somersetshire, in 1214, died at Oxford in 1292 or 1294. At an early age he was sent to Oxford, and thence he went to the university of Paris, then the most famous in Europe, where he took the degree of doctor of theology. About 1240 he returned to Oxford and entered a Franciscan monastery, where he studied Aristotle and all the ancient scholastic philosophy, mathematics, physics, and astronomy, and made many experiments with instruments constructed by himself. The ignoranee and jealousy of the other monks and of the clergy in general, and hostility created by Bacon's denunciation of their immorality, led to his being accused of studying and practising magic; and his lectures at Oxford were prohibited and the circulation of his writings confined to the convent. Robert Grosseteste, the bishop of Lincoln, befriended Bacon; and in 1205, when Clement IV., who had been a cardinal legate in England, was raised to the papacy, he despatched Raymond de Loudun to the Franciscan monk to procure some of his writings.
Bacon sent him the Opus Majus, together with two other supplementary works, the Opus Minus and the Opus Tertium. It is not known what reception Clement gave them, but he had scarcely got them in hand when he died, 1268. For ten years thereafter Bacon was allowed to prosecute his studies in peace; but in 1278 Jerome of Ascoli, superior of the Franciscan order, and afterward pope under the name of Nicholas IV., was appointed legate to the court of France, and was induced to sum-mon Bacon to Paris, where a council of Franciscans condemned his writings and sentenced! him to be confined to his cell. He was then in his 64th year, and ten years he passed in confinement. Finally his release was obtained through the influence of prominent persons in England, though some authorities state that he died in prison. Bayle and others reckon 101 of his treatises on various subjects. His chief printed works are: Perspectiva (Frankfort, 1614); Speculum Alchimiae (Nuremberg, 1581); De Secretis Artis et Naturae Operibus (Paris, 1542); De Retardandis Se-nectutis Accidentibus (Oxford, 1590); and the Opus Majus, edited by Dr. Jebb (London, 1733), which contains a digest of his . writings, and is the principal monument of his fame.
Manuscripts of his works exist in the Cottonian, Harleian, Bodleian, and Trinity college libraries. A second manuscript of the Opus Tertium was found in the library at Douay by Victor Cousin, who gave an ac-jcount of it, with an elaborate criticism of Bacon and his philosophical character in the Journal des savants for 1848. Roger Bacon claims for human reason the right to exercise control over all the doctrines submitted to its approbation; he insists upon the dignity and importance of all the sciences, and establishes experience rather than reasoning as the proper method of research. He fell into many errors on the subject of alchemy and astrology, but his scientific genius was wonderful for his time. His ft writings anticipate (according to some authorities) the discovery of the telescope; he was acquainted with the composition of gunpow-der; and the whole tone of his mind and scope of his thought were two or three centuries in advance of his generation.