Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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moisture, although it doth not pass through bodies,
without communication of some substance, as heat
and cold do, yet it worketh manifest effects ; not by
entrance of the body, but by qualifying of the heat
and cold ; as we see in this instance : and we see,
likewise, that the water of things distilled in water,
which they call the bath, diffcreth not much from the
water of things distilled by fire. We see also, that
pewter dishes with water in them will not melt easily,
but without it they will ; nay we see more, that but-
ter, or oil, which in themselves are inflammable, yet
by virtue of their moisture will do the like.

Experiment solitary touching yawning.

685. It hath been noted by the ancients, that it is
dangerous to pick one's ear whilst he yawneth. The

♦ cause is, for that in yawning the inner parchment of
the ear is extended, by the drawing in of the spirit and
breath ; for in yawning, and sighing both, the spirit
is first strongly drawn in, and then strongly expelled.


Experiment solitary touching the hiccough.

686. It hath been observed by the ancients, that
sneezing doth cease the hiccough. The cause is, for
that the motion of the hiccough is a Ufting up of the
stomach, which sneezing doth somewhat depress, and
divert the motion another way. For first we see that
the hiccough cometh of fidncss of meat, especially in
children, which causeth an extension of the stomach :
we see also it is caused by acid meats, or drinks,
which is by the pricking of the stomach ; and this
motion is ceased either by diversion, or by detention
of the spirits ; diversion, as in sneezing ; detention,
as we see holding of the breath doth help somewhat
to cease the hiccough ; and putting a man into au
earnest study doth the like, as is commonly used : and
vinegar put to the nostrils, or gargarised, doth it also ;
for that it is astringent, and inhibiteth the motion
of the spirits.

Experiment solitary touching sneezing.

687- Looking against the sun doth induce sneez-
ing. The cause is not the heating of the nostrils, for
then the holding up of the nostrils against the sun,
though one wink, would do it ; but the drawing down
of the moisture of the brain : for it will make the
eyes run with water ; and the drawing of moisture
to the eyes, doth draw it to the nostrils by motion of
consent ; and so followeth sueezilng : as contrariwise,
the tickling of the nostrils within, doth draw the
moisture to the nostrils, and to the eyes by consent ;
for they also will water. But yet it hath been ob-
served, that if one be about to sneeze, the rubbing
of the eyes till they run with water will prevent it.
Whereof the cause is, for that the humour which
was descending to the nostrils, is diverted to the eyes.

Experiment solitary touching tJie tenderness of the teeth.

688. The teeth are more by cold drink, or the
like, affected than the other parts. The cause is
double ; the one, for that the resistance of bone to
cold is greater than of flesh, for that the flesh shrink-


etli, but the bone resisteth, whereby the cold becometh
more eager : the other is, for that the teeth are parts
witliout blood ; whereas blood helpeth to qualify the
cold ; and therefore we see that the sinews are much
affected with cold, for that they are parts without blood ;
so the bones in sharp colds wax brittle : and therefore
it hath been seen, that all contusions of bones in hard
weather are more difficult to cure.

Experiment solitary touching the tongue.

689. It hath been noted, that the tongue receiveth
more easily tokens of diseases than the other parts ; as
of heats within, which appear most in the blackness
of the tongue. Again, pyed cattle are spotted in their
tongues, etc. The cause is, no doubt, the tenderness
of the part, which thereby receiveth more easily all
alterations, than any other parts of the flesh.

Experiment solitary touching the taste.

690. When the mouth is out of taste, it maketh
things taste sometimes salt, chiefly bitter ; and some-
times lothsome, but never sweet. The cause is, the
corrupting of the moisture about the tongue, which
many times turneth bitter, and salt, and lothsome ; but
sweet never ; for the rest are degrees of corruption.

Experiment solitary touching some prognostics of pestilential


691. It was observed in the great plague of the last
year, that there were seen, in divers ditches and low
grounds about London, many toads that had tails two
or three inches long at the least ; whereas toads usually
have no tails at all. Which argueth a great disposi-
tion to putrefaction in the soil and air. It is reported
likewise, that roots, such as carrots and parsnips, are
more sweet and luscious in infectious yeai'S than in
other years.

Experiment solitary touching special simples for medicines.

692. Wise physicians should with all diligence in-
quire, what simples nature yieldeth that have extreme


subtile parts, without any mordication or acrimony :
for they undermine that which is hard ; they open that
which is stopped and shut ; and they expel that which
is offensive, gently, without too much perturbation.
Of this kind are elder-flowers ; which therefore are
proper for the stone : of this kind is the dwarf-pine ;
which is proper for the jaundice : of this kind is harts-
horn ; which is proper for agues and infections : of
this kind is piony ; which is proper for stoppings in
the head : of this kind is fumitory ; which is proper
for the spleen : and a number of others. Generally,
divers creatures bred of putrefaction, though they be
somewhat lothsome to take, are of this kind ; as earth-
worms, timber-sows, snails, etc. And I conceive that
the trochisks of vipers, which are so much magnified,
and the flesh of snakes some ways condited, and cor-
rected, which of late are grown into some credit, are
of the same nature. So the parts of beasts putrified,
as castoreum and musk, which have extreme subtile
parts, are to be placed amongst them. We see also,
that putrefactions of plants, as agaric and Jews-ear,
are of greatest virtue. The cause is, for that putre-
faction is the subtilest of all motions in the parts of
bodies : and since we cannot take down the lives of
living creatures, which, some of the Paracelsians say,
if they could be taken down, would make us immortal ;
the next is for subtilty of operation, to take bodies
putrified ; such as may be safely taken.

Experiments in consort touching Venus.

693. It hath been observed by the ancients, that
much use of Venus doth dim the sight ; and yet
eunuchs, which are unable to generate, are nevertheless
also dim-sighted. The cause of dimness of sight in the
former, is the expencc of spirits ; in the latter, the over-
moisture of the brain : for the over-moisture of the
brain doth thicken the spirits visual, and obstructeth
their passages ; as we see by the decay in the sight in
age ; where also the diminution of the spirits concur-
reth as another cause : we see also that blindness
Cometh by rheums and cataracts. Now in eunuchs.


there are all the notes of moisture ; as the swelling of
their thighs, the looseness of their belly, the smooth-
ness of their skin, etc.

694. The pleasure in the act of Venus is the
greatest of the pleasures of the senses : the matching
of it with itch is improper, though that also be pleasing
to the touch. But the causes arc profound. First, all
the organs of the senses qualify the motions of the
spirits ; and make so many several species of motions,
and pleasures or displeasures thereupon, as there be
diversities or organs. The instruments of sight, hear-
ing, taste, and smell, are of several frame ; and so are
the parts for generation. Therefore Scaliger dotli well
to make the pleasm'c of generation a sixth sense ; and
if there were any other differing organs, and qualified
perforations for the spirits to pass, there would be
more than the five senses : ncitlier do we well know,
whctlier some beasts and birds have not senses that we
know not , and the very scent of dogs is almost a sense
by itself. Secondly, the pleasures of the touch arc
greater and deeper than those of the other senses ; as
we see in warming upon cold ; or refrigeration upon
heat : for as the pains of the touch are greater than
the offences of other senses ; so likewise are the plea-
sures. It is true, that the affecting of the spirits im-
mediately, and, as it were, without an organ, is of tlie
greatest j^lcasure ; which is but in two things : sweet
smells, and wine, and the like sweet vapours. For
smells, wc see tlieir great and sudden effect in fetching
men again wlicn they swoon : for drink it is certain
that tlie pleasure of drunkenness is next the pleasure
of \'^cnus ; and great joys, likewise, make the spirits
move and touch themselves : and the pleasure of
Venus is somewhat of the same kind.

69^5. It hath been always observed, tliat men are
more inclined to Venus in the winter, and women in
the summer. The cause is, for that the spirits, in a
body more hot and dry, as the spirits of men arc, by
the summer are more exhaled and dissipated ; and in
the winter more condensed and kept entire ; but in
bodies that are cold and moist, as womcns arc, tlie

VOL. 1. 2 II


summer doth clierish the spirits, and calleth them
forth ; the winter doth dull them. Furthermore, the
abstinence, or intermission of the use of Venus in
moist and well habituate bodies, breedeth a number of
diseases : and especially dangerous impostumations.
The reason is evident ; for that it is a principal eva-
cuation, especially of the spirits : for of the spirits there
is scarce any evacuation, but in Venus and exercise.
And therefore the omission of either of them breedeth
all diseases of repletion.

Experiments in consort touching the insecia.

The nature of vivification is very worthy the in-
quiry : and as the nature of things is commonly better
perceived in small than in great ; and in imperfect
than in perfect ; and in parts than in whole : so the
nature of vivification is best inquired in creatures bred
of putrefaction. The contemplation whereof hath
many excellent fruits. First, in disclosing the origi-
nal of vivification. Secondly, in disclosing the original
of figuration. Thirdly, in disclosing many things in
the nature of perfect creatures, which in them lie
more hidden. And fourthly, in traducing, by way
of operation, some observations in the insecta, to
work effects upon perfect creatures. Note, that the
word insecta agrceth not with the matter, but we
ever use it for brevity's sake, intending by it creatures
bred of putrefaction.

696. The insecta arc found to breed out of several
matters : some breed of mud or dung ; as the earth-
worms, eels, snakes, etc. For they are both putre-
factions : for water in mud doth putrify, as not able
to preserve itself: and for dung, all excrements are
the refuse and putrefactions of nourishment. Some
breed in wood, both growing and cut down. Query ^
in what woods most, and at what seasons ? We see
that the worms with many feet, which round them-
selves into balls, arc bicd chiefly under logs of timber,
but not in the timber ; and they are said to be found
also many times in gardens, where no logs are. But
it seemeth their generation requireth a coverture, botli


from sun and rain or dew, as the timber is ; and
therefore they are not venomous, but contrariwise are
held by the physicians to clarify the blood. It is ob-
served also, that cimiccs are found in the holes of bed-
sides. Some breed in the hair of living creatures, as
lice and tikes ; which are bred by the sweat close
kept, and somewhat arefied by the hair. The excre-
ments of living creatures do not only breed insecta
when tlicy are excerned, but also while they are in
the body : as in worms, whereto children are most
subject, and are chiefly in the guts. And it hath
been lately observed by physicians, that in many pes-
tilent diseases, tliere are worms found in the upper
parts of the body, where excrements are not, but
only humours putrificd. Fleas breed principally of
straw or mats, where there hath been a little mois-
ture ; or the chamber and bed-straw kept close and
not aired. It is received, that they are killed by
strewing wormwood in the rooms. And it is truly
observed, that bitter things are apt rather to kill, than
engender putrefaction ; and they be things that are
fat or sweet tliat arc aptest to putrify. There is a
worm that breedeth in meal, of the shape of a large
white maggot, which is given as a great dainty to
nightingales. The moth breedeth upon cloth and
other lanifices ; especially if they be laid up dankish
and wet. It delighteth to be about the flame of a
candle. There is a worm called a wevil, bred under
ground, and that feedeth upon roots ; as parsnips, car-
rots, etc. Some breed in waters, especially shaded,
but they must be standing waters ; as the water-spi-
der that hath six legs. The fly called the gad-fly,
breedeth of somewhat that swimmeth upon tlic top
of the water, and is most about ponds. There is a
worm that breedeth of the dregs of wine decayed ;
which afterwards, as is observed by some of the an-
cients, turneth into a gnat. It hath been observed
by the ancients, that there is a worm that breedeth in
old snow, and is of colour reddish, and dull of mo-
tion, and dieth soon after it cometh out of snow.
Which should shew, that snow hath in it a secret

2 II 2


warmth ; for else it could hardly vivify. And the
reason of the dying of the worm, may he the sudden
exhaling of that little spirit, as soon as it cometh out
of the cold, which had shut it in. For as butterflies
quicken with heat, which were benumbed with cold ;
so spirits may exhale with heat, which were preserved
in cold. It is affirmed both by the ancient and mo-
dern observation, that in furnaces of copper and brass,
where chalcites, which is vitriol, is often cast in to
mend the working, there riseth suddenly a fly, which
sometimes moveth as if it took hold of the walls of
the furnace ; sometimes is seen moving in the lire be-
low ; and dieth presently as soon as it is out of the
furnace : which is a noble instance, and worthy to be
weighed ; for it sheweth, that as well violent heat of
fire, as the gentle heat of living creatures, will vivify
if it have matter proportionable. Now the great
axiom of vivification is, that there must be heat to
dilate the spirit of the body ; an active spirit to be
dilated ; matter viscous or tenacious to hold in the
spirit ; and the matter to be put forth and figured.
Now a spirit dilated by so ardent a fire as that of the
furnace, as soon as ever it coolcth never so little, con-
gealeth presently. And, no doubt, this action is fur-
thered by the chalcites, which hath a spirit that will
put forth and germinate, as we see in chemical trials.
Briefly, most things putrified bring forth insecta of
several names ; but we will not take upon us now to
enumerate them all.

697. The insecta have been noted by the ancients
to feed little : but this hath not been diligently ob-
served ; for grasshoppers eat up the green of whole
countries ; and silk-worms devour leaves swiftly ; and
ants make great provision. It is true, that creatures
that sleep and rest much, eat little ; as dormice and
bats, etc. Tliey are all without blood : which may
be, for that tlie juice of their bodies is almost all one ;
not blood, and flesh, and skin, and bone, as in perfect
creatures ; tlie integral parts liave extreme variety,
hut tlie similar parts little. It is true, that they have,
some of tlicm, a diaphragm and an intestine ; and


they have all skins ; which in most of the i)isecta are
cast often. They arc not, generally, of long- life ; yet
bees have been known to live seven years : and snakes
are thought., the rather for the casting of their spoil,
to live till they be old : and eels, which many times
breed of putrefaction, will live and grow very long :
and those that interchange from worms to flies in the
summer, and from flies to worms in the winter, have
been kept in boxes four years at the least. Yet
there are certain flies that are called ephemera that
live but a day. The cause is the exility of the spirit,
or perhaps the absence of the sun ; for that if they were
brought in, or kept close, they might live longer.
Many of the insecta, as butterflies and other flies,
revive easily when they seem dead, being brought to
the sun or fire. The cause whereof is the diffusion of
the vital spirit, and the easy dilating of it by a little
heat. They stir a good while after their heads are off,
or that they be cut in pieces ; which is caused also, for
that their vital spirits are more diffused throughout
all their parts, and less confined to organs than in
perfect creatures.

698. The insecta liave voluntary motion, and there-
fore imagination ; and whereas some of the ancients
have said, that their motion is indeterminate, and
their imagination indefinite, it is negligently ob-
served ; for ants go right forwards to their hills ; and
bees do admirably know the way from a flowery
heath two or three miles off to their hives. It may be,
gnats and flies have their imagination more mutable
and giddy, as small birds likewise have. It is said by
some of the ancients, that tlicy have only the sense of
feeling, which is manifestly untrue; for if they go
forth-right to a place, they must needs have sight ;
besides, they delight more in one flower or herb than
in another, and therefore have taste : and bees are
called with sound upon brass, and therefore they have
hearing; which sheweth likewise, that though their
spirit be diffused, yet there is a seat of their senses in
their head.

Other observations concerning the i nscct a, togc-


tlier with the enumeration of them, we refer to that
place, where we mean to handle the title of animals
in general.

Experiment solitary touching leaping.

699. A man leapeth hotter with weights in his
hands than without. The cause is, for that the
weight, if it he proportion ahlc, strengtheneth the
sinews by contracting them. For otherwise, where
no contraction is needful, weight hindereth. As we
see in horse-races, men are curious to foresee, that
there be not the least weight upon the one horse more
than upon the other. In leaping with weights the
arms are first cast backwards, and then forwards, with
so much the greater force ; for the hands go backward
before they take their rise. Query, if the contrary
motion of the spirits, immediately before the motion
we intend, doth not cause the spirits as it were to
break forth with more force ? as breath also, drawn
and kept in, cometh forth more forcibly : and in cast-
ing of any thing, the arms, to make a greater swing,
are first cast backward.

Experiment solitary touching the pleasures and displea-
sures of the senses, especially of' hearing.

700. Of musical tones and inicqual sounds we have
spoken before ; but touching the pleasure and dis-
pleasure of the senses, not so fully. Harsh sounds,
as of a saw when it is sharpened ; grinding of one stone
against another ; squeaking or shrieking noise ; make
a shivering or horror in the body, and set the teeth on
edge. The cause is, for that tlie objects of the ear
do affect the spirits, immediately, most with pleasure
and offence. We see there is no colour that affecteth
the eye much with displeasure : there be sights that
are horrible, because they excite the memory of things
that are odious or fearful ; but the same things painted
do little affect. As for smells, tastes, and touches,
they be things that do affect by a participation or im-
pulsion of the body of the object. 80 it is sound alone
that doth immediately and incorporeally affect most ;


this is most manifest in music ; and concords and dis-
cords in music ; for all sounds, whether they be sharp
or flat, if they be sweet, have a roundness and equa-
lity ; and if they be harsh, are unequal ; for a discord
itself is but a harshness of divers sounds meeting. It
is true that inequality not stayed upon, but passing, is
rather an increase of sweetness ; as in the purling of a
wreathed string ; and in the raucity of a trumpet ; and
in the nightingale-pipe of a regal ; and in a discord
straight falling upon a concord ; but if you stay upon
it, it is offensive : and therefore there be these three
degrees of pleasing and displeasing in sounds, sweet
sounds, discords, and harsh sounds, which we call by
divers names, as shrieking or grating, such as we now
speak of. As for the setting of the teeth on edge, we
see plainly what au intercourse there is between the
teeth and the organ of the hearing, by the taking of
the end of a bow between the teeth, and striking upon
the string.



Experiment solitary touching veins of medicinal earth.

701. There be minerals and fossils in great va-
riety ; but of veins of earth medicinal, but few ; the
chief are, terra lemnia, terra sigillata commuiiis, and
bolus ar7ne?ms ; whereof terra lenmia is the chief.
The virtues of them are, for curing of wounds, stanch-
ing of blood, stopping of fluxes, and rheums, and ar-
resting the spreading of poison, infection, and putre-
faction : and they have of all other simples the per-
fectest and purest quality of drying, with little or no
mixture of any other quality. Yet it is true, that the
bole-armoniac is the most cold of them, and that terra
lemnia is the most hot ; for which cause the island
Lemnos, where it is digged, was in the old fabulous
ages consecrated to Vulcan.

Experiment solitary touching the groivth of sponges.

702. About the bottom of the Straits are gathered
great quantities of sponges, which are gathered from
the sides of rocks, being as it were a large but tough
moss. It is the more to be noted, because that there
be but few substances, plant-like, that grow deep
within the sea ; for they are gathered sometimes iif-
teen fathom deep : and when they are laid on shore,
they seem to be of great bulk ; but crushed -together,
will be transported in a very small room.

Experiment solitary touching seu-fsh put in fresh waters.

703. It secmeth, that fish that are used to the salt
water, do nevertheless delight more in iresh. We
h;cc, that salmons and smelts love to get into rivers.


though it he against the stream. At the haven ot
Constantinople you sliall liave great quantities of fish
that come from tlie JOuxine sea, that when they come
into the fresh water, do inebriate, and turn up their
beUies, so as you may take them with your hand. I
doubt there hath not been sufficient experiment made
of putting sea-fish into fresh water, ponds, and pools.
It is a thing of great use and pleasure ; for so you may
have them new at some good distance from the sea :
and besides, it may be, the fish will eat the pleasanter,
and may fall to breed. And it is said, that Colchester
oisters, which are put into pits, where the sea goeth
and Cometh, but yet so that there is fresh water
coming also to them when the sea voideth, become by
that means fatter, and more grown.

Experiment solitary tovchiiig attraction by similitude
oj substance.

704. The Turkish bow giveth a very forcible shoot;
insomuch as it hath been known, that the arrow hath
pierced a steel target, or a piece of brass of two
inches thick : but that which is more strange, the ar-
row, if it be headed with wood, hath been known to
pierce through a piece of wood of eight inches thick.
And it is certain, that we had in use at one time, for
sea fight, short arrows, which they called sprights,
without any other heads, save wood sharpened; which
were discharged out of muskets, and would pierce
through the sides of ships where a bullet would not
pierce. Rut this dependeth upon one of the greatest
secrets in all nature ; which is, that similitude of sub-
stance will cause attraction, where the body is wholly
freed from the motion of gravity : for if that were taken
away, lead would draw lead, and gold would draw
gold, and iron would draw iron, without the help of
the loadstone. But this same motion of weight or
gravity, which is a mere motion of the matter, and
hath no affinity with the form or kind, doth kill the

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 48 of 52)