Born in London, the son of a judge, More became an important statesman and scholar. He was also one of the most eminent humanists of the Renaissance. Educated at Oxford, More became an under-sheriff of London and, later, a member of Parliament. Under King Henry VIII he served as Treasurer of the Exchequer, speaker of the House of Commons, and, finally, Lord Chancellor. More is probably best known for his Utopia, which was written in Latin (then the language of literary and intellectual Europe). It was translated into English in 1551. As the first part of this small masterpiece indicates, when More was weighing the offer to be an adviser to Henry VIII he was well aware of the compromises, bitterness, and frustration that such an office involved. In the second part, More develops his famous utopia---a Greek word punning on the meanings "a good place" and "no place"---a religious, communistic society where the common ownership of goods, obligatory work for everyone, and the regular life of all before the eyes of all ensure that one's baser nature will remain under control. Inspired by Plato's (see Vols. 3 and 4) Republic, More's Utopia became in turn the urbane legacy of the humanistic movement (in which More's friends were most notably Erasmus (see Vol. 4), John Colet, and William Grocyn) to succeeding ages. More also wrote a history, Richard III, which, if arguably the first instance of modern historiography in its attention to character and its departure from chronicle, is also, in its responsiveness to the Tudor polemic of divine rights, largely responsible for the notorious reputation of Richard as an evil ruler. More's refusal to recognize Henry VIII as Head of the Church led to a sentence of high treason. Imprisoned for more than a year, he was finally beheaded. Eventually, More was granted sainthood.
Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561 in London. After studying at Cambridge, Bacon began a legal career, ultimately becoming a barrister in 1582. Bacon continued his political ascent, and became a Member of Parliament in 1584. In 1600, he served as Queen Elizabeth's Learned Counsel in the trial of Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex. After numerous appointments under James I, Bacon admitted to bribery and fell from power. Much of Bacon's fame stems from the belief by some that he was the actual author of the plays of William Shakespeare. While many critics dismissed that belief, Bacon did write several important works, including a digest of laws, a history of Great Britain, and biographies of the Tudor monarchy, including Henry VII. Bacon was also interested in science and the natural world. His scientific theories are recorded in Novum Organum, published in 1620. Bacon's interest in science ultimately led to his death. After stuffing a fowl with snow to study the effect of cold on the decay of meat, he fell ill, and died of bronchitis on April 9, 1626.