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The Mine and the Furnace: Francis Bacon, Thomas Russell, and Early Stuart Mining Culture

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Notwithstanding Francis Bacon's praise for the philosophical role of the mechanical arts, historians have often downplayed Bacon's connections with actual artisans and entrepreneurs. Addressing the specific context of mining culture, this study proposes a rather different picture. The analysis of a famous mining metaphor in The Advancement of Learning shows us how Bacon's project of reform of knowledge could find an apt correspondence in civic and entrepreneurial values of his time. Also, Bacon had interesting and so far unexplored links with the early modern English mining enterprises, like the Company of Mineral and Battery Works, of which he was a shareholder. Moreover, Bacon's notes in a private notebook, Commentarius Solutus, and records of patents of invention, allow us to start grasping Bacon's connections with the metallurgist and entrepreneur Thomas Russell. Lastly, this paper argues that, to fully understand Bacon's links with the world of Stuart technicians and entrepreneurs, it is necessary to consider a different and insufficiently studied aspect of Bacon's interests, namely his work as patents referee while a Commissioner of Suits.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, 1011 East Third Street, Goodbody Hall 130, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

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/content/journals/10.1163/138374209x12465448337583
2009-09-01
2016-12-06

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