Bacon, Roger

The earliest authentic works extant on European alchemy are those of the English monk Roger Bacon (1214?-1294) and the German philosopher Saint Albertus Magnus; both believed in the possibility of transmuting inferior metals into gold.Roger Bacon believed potable gold (gold dissolved in aqua regia) to be the elixir of life. A copy of Bacon's Thesaurus Chemicus was in the library of Joseph Curwen.

Bacon was born in Ilchester, Somersetshire and educated at Oxford and in Paris. Returning to England in 1251, after teaching in Paris, he became a Franciscan monk and settled at Oxford. His theological endeavors never overshadowed his interest in the sciences, especially alchemy, optics, and astronomy, on which he wrote profusely. Concerned with the educational methods of the period and at the request of Pope Clement IV, he wrote his "Opus Majus" ("Major Work"), an encyclopedia of science including grammar, logic, mathematics, physics, experimental research, and moral philosophy. Unfortunately his revolutionary scientific views were seen as heretical by the Franciscans. His work was banned and he was imprisoned for ten years. He returned to Oxford (where he gained the pet name "Doctor Admirabilis") and wrote "Compendium Studii Theologiae" ("A Compendium of the Study of Theology", 1292) shortly before his death. Despite his advanced knowledge including refraction optics and gunpowder, Bacon accepted some of the scientifically innacurate beliefs of his time, such as the existence of a philosopher's stone and the efficacy of astrology. The 'Sylva Sylvarun' in vol 2. of his Works is considered to be a sample of his magical beliefs. Because of this, he gained the reputation of being a magician and alchemist despite the fact that, though Bacon accepted science as a 'natural magic,' he rejected the idea of Black Magic and all its trapping as false.

[The Case of Charles Dexter Ward - H.P.L.]

See also: Thesaurus Chemicus

To read biographical notes about Roger Bacon in Francis Barrett's The Magus click HERE