New Atlantis & an Early Vision of Technical Intelligence

By Roger Davies / 16 November 2013 / History, TechInt, Weapons Intelligence

Francis Bacon was a philosopher, politician, lawyer and scientist who lived between 1561 and 1626. At one stage he was clearly involved with the Elizabethan spymaster, Francis Walsingham. Bacon should be particularly remembered for the creation of the formal ‘scientific method’, the rigourous process by which all modern science should be dealt with. Isaac Newton utilised it and and all modern science is built using the Baconian method. The formation of the Royal Society itself was inspired by it.

In 1624 he published a philosophical novel called ‘New Atlantis’. New Atlantis is about an imaginary utopian country, Bensalem, located somewhere west of South America. In it, Bacon described his vision of the perfect society, led by science. In Bensalem a key institution is “Solomon’s House”, a place of scientific investigation and analysis. In many ways it is a research establishment.

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In the latter part of the book, the head of Solomon’s House takes a European visitor to Solomon’s House to explain its processes. He then describes the following:

“For the several employments and offices of our fellows, we have twelve that sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations (for our own we conceal), who bring us the books and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts. These we call merchants of light.

“We have three that collect the experiments which are in all books. These we call depredators.

“We have three that collect the experiments of all mechanical arts, and also of liberal sciences, and also of practices which are not brought into arts. These we call mystery–men.

“We have three that try new experiments, such as themselves think good. These we call pioneers or miners.

“We have three that draw the experiments of the former four into titles and tables, to give the better light for the drawing of observations and axioms out of them. These we call compilers.

“We have three that bend themselves, looking into the experiments of their fellows, and cast about how to draw out of them things of use and practice for man’s life and knowledge, as well for works as for plain demonstration of causes, means of natural divinations, and the easy and clear discovery of the virtues and parts of bodies. These we call dowry–men or benefactors.

“Then after divers meetings and consults of our whole number, to consider of the former labours and collections, we have three that take care out of them to direct new experiments, of a higher light, more penetrating into nature than the former. These we call lamps.

“We have three others that do execute the experiments so directed, and report them. These we call inoculators.

“Lastly, we have three that raise the former discoveries by experiments into greater observations, axioms, and aphorisms. These we call interpreters of nature.”

I think that’s a good a description of modern Technical Intelligence Acquisition capability (including OSINT), Exploitation Centre, and S&T Analysis organisation, associated with a Research facility as any I have come across. From 1624!

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