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VMs: RE: On April 9th 1626... (taken from today's "London Metro" freenewspaper)
> > > "On April 9th 1626, Francis Bacon, Viscount St
> Albans, died as a result of
> > > a deep-freezing experiment. A former Lord
> Chancellor sacked for accepting
> > > bribes as a judge, his essays still feature in
> dictionaries of quotations.
> > > He is also remembered for his theories about the
> Utopian community of
> > > Atlantis -- but it was his interest in preserving
> food which killed him.
> > > While driving in North London, he got out of his
> carriage and stuffed a
> > > chicken with snow. He caught a chill and died soon
I made mention of this in private to Nick, but since it is a topic
of discussion, I'll elaborate somewhat on the article in question,
this being one of those very small areas in which I am extremely
The story of the chicken is considered by most to be apocryphal,
an attempt by Dr. Rawley to draw attention away from Bacon's death
and onto his unpublished scientific investigations, saying that
Bacon was engaged in a scientific study which caused his death. A
review of Bacon's unpublished works makes it clear he was already
aware of the effects of cold on the preserving of flesh, so it
should not have been necessary for him to repeat the experiments.
Bacon himself was plagued with a lifelong illness which probably
had much to do with his real death, and even 150 years later one
finds studies from doctors attempting to isolate Bacon's
particular illness in light of renewed knowledge.
As to Lord Bacon's accepting bribes, history has laid a burden
on Bacon's shoulders he did not deserve. The events leading up to
the investigation of Bacon's office are too lengthy to list here,
but suffice it to say that it was Bacon's own naïveté and honesty
that brought about his downfall. Powerful men make powerful
enemies, and Bacon's favor of the king was his trust, a misplaced
trust in his case.
When a call for audit of Bacon's office was called for, Bacon
welcomed it and offered unrestricted access to his files. His
detractors investigated over 2,000 cases, and came up with only 4
that listed questionable payments. Charges were brought on only 2
of these 4 cases.
The inequities in these two cases were events unknown to Lord
Bacon, and upon hearing of them, he called in his clerk, a nephew
of another powerful man, and the nephew freely admitted being at
fault for the illegal payments in these two cases, i.e., the
nephew was the one who accepted the bribes. It should be
remembered that Bacon's staff was appointed by the King, and Bacon
had no power to hire or fire his help.
Bacon was all set to mount his own defense and present his
evidence, but once this fact was disclosed Lord Bacon was called
to a meeting with King James, who basically asked him to accept
the responsibility and a moderate punishment, and Bacon would
later be restored. Bacon did his duty, the King as usual failed
to do his. One reason the "history" of this event has persisted
is because, even in 1579, Dr. Rawley had refused to publish the
pertinent letters and information, saying the subject was still
"too close to the living". In Rawley's defense, he did at least
claim early on that Bacon was innocent of the charges.
The inside information concerning Bacon's demise was available 100
years after his death, but the story of his downfall is still told
as if he were at fault. Inevitably it seems, the ones who get
their work printed are those that spend the least time on their
> >Nick Pelling wrote:
> PS: as GC pointed out, the story is almost certainly
> wrong in every respect
> - but that's history for you. :-)