Historian Justin Champion on Francis Bacon
Justin Champion suggests 17th-century polymath Francis Bacon is the architect of the modern world. But he also understood the fallibility of technology and its creators.
Historian Justin Champion on Francis Bacon's anxieties about the fallibility of technological innovators. The 17th century polymath Francis Bacon blew a fanfare for the new scientific age: where man would dominate, understand and improve the world and use technology to achieve this. Optimistic about man's ingenuity and the potential perfectibility of human society he saw also that men were weak. Nature might have been laid out by God as a kind of book for man to read but individual humans were as likely to be motivated by greed, folly and pride as good intentions. He explored this idea in his book of 1609, The Wisdom of the Ancients, where he used the example of Daedalus, the most ingenious of inventors from Greek Myth to consider the ambiguities of technical progress. Daedalus inventions were truly marvellous but his pride and lack of forethought led to disaster for all around him, not least his son Icarus who perished testing out one his father's extraordinary inventions.