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John Rylands Library: Next Expert Tour

* A taster for the next expert tour of John Rylands Library (And…).
* Monday 20 May, 2.30pm, starting at St Ann’s Church.

The Reading Room of the John Rylands Library on Deansgate is lined with statues of leading figures from history in the fields of the arts and religion. They include one of Francis Bacon.

Not the irascible Dublin-born painter, but the genius late Elizabethan/early 17th century philosopher and politician. Bacon was the first English intellectual to pick up on the Kabbalist notion that all knowledge could be contained under two headings, zero and one, thereby presaging computer algebra by over three hundred years.

But the more likely reason why Bacon is there is because with his voluminous writings, particularly Novum Organum from 1620, Bacon devised what we now call the scientific principle, the idea that to understand the world one must experiment, write down the findings, and do a better experiment next time: the entire basis of modern thinking. Previously, too many figures had simply indulged in magic, alchemy and superstition.

It took around a hundred years for Bacon’s ideas to seep into society. Experiment, amend, experiment again. The outcome was the industrial revolution, starting with Newcomen steam engine in 1712, in which Manchester led the way. That’s why Bacon is there.

As for the other main statues, and why Bacon is next to Shakespeare, linked with the greatest literary conspiracy theory of all time, you’ll have to come on the tour.