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Weighing Experience: Experimental Histories and Francis Bacon's Quantitative Program

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Weighing of experience was a central concern of what Bacon called the "literate" stage of experimentation. As early as 1608, Bacon devised precise tenets for standard, quantitative reporting of experiments. These ideas were later integrated into his experimental histories proper. Bacon's enquiry of dense and rare is the best example of experientia literata developed in a quantitative fashion. I suggest that Bacon's ideas on this issue can be tied to experiments for the determination of specific gravities born in a monetary context: Bacon's investigation was very likely a generalization of Jean Bodin's experiments in Universae naturae theatrum (1596). Overall, Bacon's program of quantification calls for a revision of established historiographical notions, especially Thomas Kuhn's sharp dichotomy between a mathematical and a Baconian experimental tradition in seventeenth-century science.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RH, United Kingdom


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