Francis Bacon’s Literary-Scientific Utopia

  • Angus Fletcher
Part of the Palgrave Handbooks of Literature and Science book series (PAHALISC)


Francis Bacon was forever making outrageous promises about experimental science—it would cure the plague, populate the world with youthful centenarians, fill our spare time with technological bliss—but none was more incredible than his prediction of a new global community. Science, he enthused, would link the warring cultures of the earth together, establishing a worldwide information network that connected us all in a free trade of ideas. So unprecedented was this future society that when Bacon set out to describe it in his utopian fable New Atlantis (c.1623), he started by frankly admitting the challenges it would need to overcome. The story begins when a European ship stumbles upon a mysterious island civilization, prompting the sailors to observe that the well-dressed islanders look ominously ‘Turkish.’1 The islanders, meanwhile, forbid the alien ship to land, and so though the two groups share a common language (both, it turns out, know Spanish), they hover nervously apart. Moreover, what finally encourages the Europeans and the islanders to embrace each other is not a new scientific invention, but a comfortably familiar creed. An islander calls out to the sailors: ‘Are ye Christians?’ (3). And after the Europeans affirm that they are indeed, the islanders respond, ‘If ye will swear (all of you) by the merits of the Savior … you may have license to come on land’ (3). Relieved, the Europeans see that the islanders are not so different after all. Christ is everywhere, his salvation linking the globe.


Moral Idealism Christian Society Capital Crime Steven Pinker Yellow Cane 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angus Fletcher
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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