Quotations by Bacon, Francis


The virtue of Prosperity is temperance; the virtue of Adversity is fortitude.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Adversity,” Essays, No. 5 (1625)
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Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Adversity,” Essays, No. 5 (1625)
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I had rather believe all the fables in the legends and the Talmud and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Atheism,” Essays, No. 16 (1625)
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There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Beauty,” Essays, No. 43 (1625)
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A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Ceremonies and Respects,” Essays, No. 3 (1625)
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Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Cunning,” Essays, No. 22 (1625)
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Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Death,” Essays, No. 2 (1625)
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A crowd is not company; and faces are but a gallery of pictures; and talk but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Friendship,” Essays, No. 27 (1625)
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God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Gardens,” Essays, No. 46 (1625)
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If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature,” Essays, No. 13 (1625)
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Ask counsel of both times — of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Great Place,” Essays, No. 11 (1625)
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All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Great Place,” Essays, No. 11 (1625)
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He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Innovation,” Essays, No. 26 (1625)
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As the births of living creatures at first are ill-shapen, so are all Innovations, which are the births of time.

bacon-at-first-are-ill-shapen-wist_info-quote

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Innovations,” Essays (1825)
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Wives are young men’s mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men’s nurses.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Marriage and Single Life,” Essays, No. 8 (1625)
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Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldome extinguished. Force maketh nature more violent in the return.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Nature in Men,” Essays, No. 38 (1625)
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Certainly fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Praise,” Essays, No. 53 (1625)
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A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Revenge,” Essays, No. 4 (1625)
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Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Revenge,” Essays, No. 4 (1625)
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I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue. The Roman word is better, impedimenta. For as the baggage is to an army, so are riches to virtue. It cannot be spared or left behind, but it hindereth the march: yea, and the care of it, sometimes, loseth the victory.

Bacon - loseth the victory - wist_info quote

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Seek not proud riches, but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Also attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

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The ways to enrich are many, and most of them foul.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Defer not thy charities till death; for certainly, if a man weight it rightly, he that doth so is rather liberal of another man’s than his own.

Bacon - defer not thy charities - wist_info

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Seditions and Troubles,” Essays, No. 15 (1625)
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To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays (1625)
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Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays (1625)
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Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
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Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
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Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
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Studies … give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded by experience.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
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Crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
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Glorious men are the scorn of wise men, the admiration of fools, the idols of parasites, and the slaves of their own vaunts.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Vain-Glory,” Essays (1625)
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The greatest vicissitude of things amongst men is the vicissitude of sects and religions.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Vicissitude of Things,” Essays, No. 58 (1625)
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Surely there is no better way to stop the rising of new sects and schisms than to reform abuses; to compound the smaller differences; to proceed mildly, and not with sanguinary persecutions; and rather to take off the principal authors by winning and advancing them, than to enrage them by violence and bitterness.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Vicissitude of Things,” Essays, No. 58 (1625)
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Knowledge that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Valerius Terminus: Of the Interpretation of Nature”
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There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
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Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
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The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
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A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable, and should be secured because they seldom return.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)
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He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)

Quoted in The Millennial Harbinger, #8 (Aug 1860).
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If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master. The covetous man cannot so properly be said to possess wealth, as that may be said to possess him.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
(Attributed)

Attributed to Bacon in Alexander Anderson, Laconics: or Instructive Miscellanies, (1827). Attributed to French moralist Pierre Charron (1541-1603) in John Timbs, Laconics: Or, The Best Words of the Best Authors (1829). See also French saying.
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Philosophy directs us first to seek the goods of the mind, and the rest will either be supplied, or are not much wanted.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Advancement of Learning, 8.2 (1605)
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Croesus said to Cambyses: That peace was better than war; because in peace the sons did bury their fathers, but in wars the fathers did bury their sons.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apophthegms, #149 (1625)

See Herodotus.
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Mr. Bettenham said that virtuous men were like some herbs and spices, that give not out their sweet smell till they be broken or crushed.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apothegms (1625)
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Good fame is like fire. When you have kindled it, you may easily preserve it; but if once you extinguish it, you will not easily kindle it again; at least, not make it burn as bright as it did.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apothegms, # 3 (1624)

Quoting Plutarch.

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Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apothegms, # 36 (1624)
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Alonso of Aragon was wont to say in commendation of age, that age appears to be best in four things — old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apothegms, # 97 (1624)

See Alfonso X.

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Cato said the best way to keep good acts in memory was to refresh them with new.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Apothegms, #247 (1624)
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Hurl your calumnies boldly; something is sure to stick.

[Audacter calumniare, semper aliquid haeret.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning] (1605)
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If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin in doubts, he shall end in certainties.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 1, ch. 5, sec. 8 (1605)

Alt trans. (Willey Book ed., (1944)): "If we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with doubts, and are patient with them, we shall end in certainties."
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But men must know, that in this theatre of man’s life it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 2, ch. 20, sec. 8 (1605)
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We are much beholden to Machiavel and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 2, ch. 21, #9 (1605)
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Some men covet knowledge out of a natural curiosity and inquisitive temper; some to entertain the mind with variety and delight; some for ornament and reputation; some for victory and contention; many for lucre and a livelihood; and but very few for employing the Divine gift of reason to the use and benefit of mankind.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 3, ch. 1 (1605)
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They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 3, ch. 4 (1605)
    (Source)

Alt trans: "[They] are indolent discoverers who seeing nothing beyond but sea and sky, absolutely deny there can be any land beyond them."

Another source notes it as Book 2, ch. 7.
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The slaves of custom are the sport of time.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 6, ch. 3, “Innovation” (1605)
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Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 6, ch. 3, Antitheses #31 “Loquacity” (1605)
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Riches are a good handmaid, but the worst mistress.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 6, ch. 3, Antitheses #6 “Riches” (1605)
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Nothing is terrible except fear itself.

[Nil terribile nisi ipse timor.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Part 2, “Fortitudo” (1605)
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Nay, number (itself) in armies, importeth not much, where the people is of weak courage; for (as Virgil saith) it never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral, ch. 24 “Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Estates” (1597)
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Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. The people assembled. Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still he was never a whit abashed, but said, “If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essays, “Of Boldness” (1625)
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It is a strange desire, to seek power and to lose liberty.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essays, “Of Great Place” (1625)
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The monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power, or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities have been decayed and demolished?

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Essex’s Device (1595)
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The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 49 (1620)

Alt. trans.: "Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." [Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.] See Demosthenes.
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Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. In everything man has accomplished, we have only manipulated nature into doing what it is.

[Natura enim non imperatur, nisi parendo.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 129 (1620)
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Again, we should notice the force, effect, and consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world; first in literature, then in warfare, and lastly in navigation: and innumerable changes have been thence derived, so that no empire, sect, or star, appears to have exercised a greater power and influence on human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 2, Aphorism 129 (1620)
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Books must follow sciences, and not sciences books.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Resuscitatio, “Proposition Touching Amendment of Laws” (1657)
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Knowledge is power.
[Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.]

Bacon - knowledge is power - wist_info quote

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Sacred Meditations [Meditationes Sacræ], “Of Heresies [De Hæresibus]” (1597)

Alt. trans.: "Knowledge itself is power."
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For a man to love again where he is loved, it is the charity of publicans contracted by mutual profit and good offices; but to love a man’s enemies is one of the cunningest points of the law of Christ, and an imitation of the divine nature.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Sacred Meditations [Meditationes Sacræ], “Of the Exaltation of Charity” (1597)
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The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Sylva Sylvarum, Century 10 (1627)

Alt trans.: "It is true that that may hold in these things, which is the general root of superstition; namely, that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss; and commit to memory the one, and forget and pass over the other."
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