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Terminus or Renovation?

The TORCH Crisis, Extremes, and Apocalypse network hosted a talk on 'Terminus or Renovation? Francis Bacon and Crisis in Early Modern Knowledge' with Dr Richard Serjeantson (University of Cambridge). Francis Bacon was by no means alone in his conviction that his age was experiencing a crisis in the ways in which it acquired knowledge, and in the kinds of knowledge that it valued. But he was one of the earliest and most trenchant exponents of this view in the seventeenth century, above all in his Instauratio Magna ('Great Renovation’) of 1620, with its famous frontispiece depicting a ship successfully transnavigating the extremes of the ancient world. This paper will consider the significance of the early-modern crisis of knowledge that Bacon articulated, and will assess the extent to which he saw it in apocalyptic terms. In doing so it will also offer a new suggestion about how Bacon arrived at his vision of renewal in the sciences.