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List of persons considered father or mother of a scientific field

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Those known as the father, mother, or considered the founder of a scientific field are the scientists who have made important contributions to that field. In some fields several people are considered the founders, while in others the title of being the "mother" or "father" is debatable.


Natural sciences


Subject Father / mother of ... Reason
Bacteriology Robert Koch, Ferdinand Cohn,
Louis Pasteur[1] (founders)
For their studies and scientific findings on bacteria and algae
Biology[2] Aristotle[3]
Entomology William Kirby
Evolution and natural selection Charles Darwin[4][5][6] Publication: On the Origin of Species
Genetics Gregor Mendel[7] For his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants, which forms the basis for Mendelian inheritance
Ichthyology Peter Artedi[8]
Lichenology Erik Acharius[9]
Microbiology Antonie van Leeuwenhoek[10] The first to microscopically observe micro-organisms in water and the first to see bacteria
Molecular biology Linus Pauling[11]
Molecular biophysics Gopalasamudram Narayana Iyer Ramachandran[12] Founded the Molecular Biophysics Unit (1970)
Neuroscience Santiago Ramón y Cajal[13]
For his formation of neuron doctrine
Paleontology George Cuvier[14]
Taxonomy Carolus Linnaeus
Naming of living organisms that became universally accepted in the scientific world
Toxicology Paracelsus[16]
Virology Martinus Beijerinck[17]
His studies of agricultural microbiology and industrial microbiology yielded fundamental discoveries in the field of biology


Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Atomic theory (early) Democritus[18] Founder of atomism in cosmology
Atomic theory (modern) Father Roger Boscovich[19]
John Dalton[20]
First coherent description of atomic theory, well over a century before modern atomic theory emerged
First scientific description of the atom as a building block for more complex structures
Chemical thermodynamics (modern) Gilbert Lewis, Willard Gibbs, Merle Randall, and Edward Guggenheim (founders)[21] Books: Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances (1923) and Modern Thermodynamics by the Methods of Willard Gibbs (1933); because of the major contributions of these two books in unifying the applications of thermodynamics to chemistry
Chemistry (early) Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber)[22][23][24][25] Introduced the experimental method in alchemy (d. 815)
Chemistry (modern) Antoine Lavoisier[26]
Robert Boyle[26]
Jöns Berzelius[27][28]
John Dalton[26] (founders)
Book: Elements of Chemistry (1787)
Book: The Sceptical Chymist (1661)
Development of chemical nomenclature (1800s)
Revival of atomic theory (1803)
Nuclear chemistry Otto Hahn[29] Book: Applied Radiochemistry (1936)
First person to split an atomic nucleus (1938)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovery of nuclear fission (1944)
Periodic table Dmitri Mendeleev[30] Arranged sixty-six elements (known at the time) in order of atomic weight by periodic intervals (1869)
Physical chemistry Hermann von Helmholtz,

Willard Gibbs(founders)[31]

Devised much of the theoretical foundation for physical chemistry through their publications off, On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances(1876), and Thermodynamik chemischer Vorgange(1882)

Earth sciences

Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Geodesy Eratosthenes[32]
Geology (modern) Father Nicholas Steno [33]

James Hutton[34]

For setting down most of the principles of modern geology.
For formulating uniformitarianism and the Plutonic theory of thought.
Limnology (modern) G. Evelyn Hutchinson[35]
Mathematical geography Eratosthenes (founder)[36]
Mineralogy Georgius Agricola[37]
Meteorology Matthew Fontaine Maury[38]
Acoustical oceanography[39] Leonid Brekhovskikh
Naval oceanography (modern) Matthew Fontaine Maury[38]
Stratigraphy Father Nicholas Steno [33]

Medicine and physiology

Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Audiology Raymond Carhart[40][41]
Cognitive therapy Aaron T. Beck[42]
Emergency medicine Peter Safar[43][44]
Frank Pantridge[45]
Safar: Pioneered CPR, intensive-care units, developed standards for EMT, ambulance design and equipment.
Fitness Jack LaLanne[46]
Gynaecology J. Marion Sims[47][48]
Human anatomy (modern) Vesalius[49]
Book: De humani corporis fabrica (1543)
Medical genetics Victor McKusick[50] Created Mendelian Inheritance in Man
Medicine (early) Imhotep[51][52][53]
Wrote the first medical treatise, the Edwin Smith papyrus.
Wrote the Charaka Samhitā and founded the Ayurveda system of medicine.
Medicine (modern) Hippocrates[3][55][56][57]
Prescribed practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Oath, establishing the profession.
Modern dentistry Pierre Fauchard[58]
Modern nutrition Justus von Liebig[59]
Modern psychology Wilhelm Wundt[60] Founded the first laboratory for psychological research.
Nursing (modern) Florence Nightingale[61]
Organ transplantation Thomas Starzl[62] Performed the first human liver transplant and established the clinical utility of anti-rejection drugs including ciclosporin. Developed major advances in organ preservation, procurement, and transplantation.
Pediatrics Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes)[63] Wrote The Diseases of Children, the first book to deal with pediatrics as an independent field
Physiology Claude Bernard[64] Publication: An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865)
Physical culture Bernarr Macfadden[65]
Plastic surgery Sushruta[66][67] Wrote the Sushruta Samhita
Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud[68]
Psychophysics Gustav Fechner[69] Founded the discipline of psychophysics in his Elements of Psychophysics (1860)
Space medicine Hubertus Strughold[70]
Surgery (early) Sushruta[66][67] Wrote the Sushruta Samhita, the first surgical treatise
Surgery (modern) Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis)[71]
Ambroise Paré[72]
Publication: Kitab al-Tasrif (1000).
Leader in surgical techniques, especially the treatment of wounds.

Physics and astronomy

Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Acoustics Ernst Chladni[73] For important research in vibrating plates
Aerodynamics Nikolai Zhukovsky
George Cayley[74]
Zhukovsky was the first to undertake the study of airflow, was the first engineer scientist to explain mathematically the origin of aerodynamic lift. Cayley Investigated theoretical aspects of flight and experimented with flight a century before the first airplane was built
Classical mechanics Isaac Newton (founder)[75] Described laws of motion and law of gravity in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687)
Electricity William Gilbert[76]
Michael Faraday[citation needed]
Thomas Edison[77]
Nikola Tesla[citation needed]
Book: De Magnete (1600)
Discovered electromagnetic induction (1831)
Proposed a kite experiment to prove that lightning is electricity (1750)
Invented many electrical devices, such as the carbon microphone
Invented alternating current and many other electrical devices
Energetics Willard Gibbs[78] Publication: On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876)
Experimental physics (founder) Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)[79][80] For introducing experimental method into physics with his Book of Optics (1021)
Modern astronomy Nicolaus Copernicus[81] Developed the first explicit heliocentric model in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543)
Modern physics Galileo Galilei[82] His development and extensive use of experimental physics, e.g. the telescope
Nuclear physics Ernest Rutherford[83] Developed the Rutherford atom model (1909)
Nuclear science Marie Curie
Pierre Curie[84]
Optics Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen)[85] Correctly explained vision and carried out the first experiments on light and optics in the Book of Optics (1021).
Quantum mechanics Max Planck (founder)[86] Stated that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form
Relativity Albert Einstein (founder)[87] Pioneered special relativity (1905) and general relativity (1915)
Spaceflight (Rocketry) Robert Hutchings Goddard
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Hermann Oberth
Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.
Tsiolkovsky created the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation.
Thermodynamics Sadi Carnot (founder)[88] Publication: On the Motive Power of Fire and Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1824)

Formal sciences


Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
See also Father of Algebra
Al-Khwarizmi (Algorismi)[89][90]
Full exposition of solving quadratic equations in his Al-Jabr and recognized algebra as an independent discipline.
First use of symbolism (syncopation) in his Arithmetica.
Analysis Augustin-Louis Cauchy[93]
Karl Weierstrass[94]
Analytic geometry René Descartes
Pierre de Fermat[95](founders)
For their independent invention of the Cartesian Coordinate System
Calculus Isaac Newton[96]
Gottfried Leibniz
See Leibniz and Newton calculus controversy.
Classical analysis Madhava of Sangamagrama[97] Developed Taylor series expansions of trigonometric functions
Computer science George Boole
Alan Turing
Invented Boolean logic, which is the basis of modern digital computer logic
Provided an influential formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine.
Descriptive geometry Gaspard Monge[98]
Developed a graphical protocol which creates three-dimensional virtual space on a two-dimensional plane
Geometry Euclid[99] Euclid's Elements deduced the principles of Euclidean geometry from a set of axioms.
Graph Theory Leonhard Euler[100] See Seven Bridges of Königsberg
Italian school of algebraic geometry Corrado Segre[101] Publications and students developing algebraic geometry
Non-Euclidean geometry János Bolyai,
Nikolai Lobachevsky[102](founders)
Independent development of hyperbolic geometry in which Euclid's fifth postulate is not true
Number theory Pythagoras[103]
Probability Pierre de Fermat, Blaise Pascal, Christiaan Huygens[104] (founders) Fermat and Pascal co-founded probability theory, about which Huygens wrote the first book
Projective geometry Gérard Desargues[105](founder) By generalizing the use of vanishing points to include the case when these are infinitely far away
Tensor calculus Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro[106]
Book: The Absolute Differential Calculus
Trigonometry Hipparchus[107][108] Constructed the first trigonometric table.
Vector algebra,
Vector calculus
Willard Gibbs[31]
Oliver Heaviside[109]
For their development and use of vectors in algebra and calculus

Systems theory

Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Chaos theory Edward Lorenz [110] Lorenz attractor
Cybernetics Norbert Wiener [111] Book Cybernetics: Or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. 1948.
Dynamic programming Richard E. Bellman
Fuzzy logic Lotfi Asker Zadeh
Information theory Claude Shannon[112] Article: A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948)
Optimal control Arthur E. Bryson[113] Book: Applied Optimal Control[114]
Robust control George Zames[citation needed] Small gain theorem and H infinity control.
Stability theory Alexander Lyapunov[citation needed] Lyapunov function

Social sciences

Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Anthropology Herodotus[115]
Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī[116][117]
Demography Ibn Khaldun[118] Muqaddimah (Prolegomena) (1377)
Egyptology Father Athanasius Kircher[119]

Jean-François Champollion[citation needed]

First to identify the phoenetic importance of the hieroglyph, and he demonstrated Coptic as a vestige of early Egyptian, before the Rosetta stone's discovery.
Translated parts of the Rosetta Stone.
Indology Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī[117] Wrote the Indica and Critical study of what India says
Political science (modern) Niccolò Machiavelli[120] Discussion of and concern with how people actually behave, as opposed to how people should behave.
Sociology Ibn Khaldun[118][121]
Adam Ferguson[122]
Auguste Comte[123]
Marquis de Condorcet (founder)[124]
Wrote the first sociological book, the Muqaddimah (Prolegomena).
"Father of modern sociology"
Introduced the scientific method into sociology.



Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Economics (early) Ibn Khaldun[125]
Chanakya / Kautilya[126]
Publication: Muqaddimah (1370)
Publication: Arthashastra (400 BCE - 200 CE)
Economics (modern) Richard Cantillon[127]
Adam Smith[128]
First specific treatise on economics
Publication: The Wealth of Nations (1776)
Mathematical economics Daniel Bernoulli Forerunner of the Tableau économique[129]
Monetary economics Nicole Oresme[130] Work: De Moneta
Microcredit Muhammad Yunus[131] Founded Grameen Bank
Personnel economics Edward Lazear Published the first paper in the field.

Schools of thought

Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Austrian School Carl Menger[132]
Communism Karl Marx
Friedrich Engels
David Ricardo[133]
School of Salamanca Francisco de Vitoria[134] Highly influential teacher and lecturer on commercial morality


Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Expectations theory Thomas Cardinal Cajetan[135] Recognised the effect of market expectations on the value of money
Modern portfolio theory Harry Markowitz[136]
Social choice theory Kenneth Arrow Created the field with his 1951 book, Social Choice and Individual Values


Subject Father / Mother of ... Reason
Modern science Galileo Galilei[137][138] For systemic use of experimentation in science and contributions to scientific method, physics and observational astronomy
Scientific method Francis Bacon[139] Developed Baconian method in his Novum Organum (1620).

See also


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  3. ^ a b Strong, W.F.; Cook, John A. (July 2007), "Reviving the Dead Greek Guys", Global Media Journal, Indian Edition, ISSN: 1550-7521, http://www.manipal.edu/gmj/issues/jul07/strong.php 
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  5. ^ Moore, James (2006), "Evolution and Wonder - Understanding Charles Darwin", Speaking of Faith (Radio Program), American Public Media, <http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/darwin/transcript.shtml> Retrieved on 2006-12-15
  6. ^ van Wyhe, John (2006), Charles Darwin: gentleman naturalist: A biographical sketch, <http://darwin-online.org.uk/darwin.html> Retrieved on 2006-12-15
  7. ^ The Father of Genetics
  8. ^ Jordan, David Starr (1905). A Guide to the Study of Fishes. Henry Holt and Company. , online at [1], p.390: "Far greater than either of these... was he who has been justly called the Father of Ichthyology, Petrus (Peter) Artedi (1705–35)."
  9. ^ "Erik Acharius, the father of lichenology," Department of Cryptogamic Botany, Swedish Museum of Natural History. Link. 17 December 1999.
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  84. ^ Resources
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  88. ^ Solomon Gandz (1936), The sources of al-Khwarizmi's algebra, Osiris I, p. 263–277: "In a sense, Khwarizmi is more entitled to be called "the father of algebra" than Diophantus because Khwarizmi is the first to teach algebra in an elementary form and for its own sake, Diophantus is primarily concerned with the theory of numbers."
  89. ^ Serish Nanisetti, Father of algorithms and algebra, The Hindu, June 23, 2006.
  90. ^ Boyer, Carl B. (1991). "The Arabic Hegemony". A History of Mathematics (Second Edition ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. pp. 228. ISBN 0471543977. "Diophantus sometimes is called "the father of algebra," but this title more appropriately belongs to al-Khwarizmi. It is true that in two respects the work of al-Khwarizmi represented a retrogression from that of Diophantus. First, it is on a far more elementary level than that found in the Diophantine problems and, second, the algebra of al-Khwarizmi is thoroughly rhetorical, with none of the syncopation found in the Greek Arithmetica or in Brahmagupta's work. Even numbers were written out in words rather than symbols! It is quite unlikely that al-Khwarizmi knew of the work of Diophantus, but he must have been familiar with at least the astronomical and computational portions of Brahmagupta; yet neither al-Khwarizmi nor other Arabic scholars made use of syncopation or of negative numbers." 
  91. ^ Derbyshire, John (2006). "The Father of Algebra". Unknown Quantity: A Real And Imaginary History of Algebra. Joseph Henry Press. pp. 31. ISBN 030909657X. "Diophantus, the father of algebra, in whose honor I have named this chapter, lived in Alexandria, in Roman Egypt, in either the 1st, the 2nd, or the 3rd century CE." 
  92. ^ p. 750, Rudiments of Mathematics Part 1, M. N. Mukherjee, P. Mukhopadhyay, S. Sinha Roy & U. Dasgupta, Academic Publishers, 2008, 5th ed., ISBN 8189781545.
  93. ^ p. 147, Collisions, rings, and other Newtonian N-body problems, Donald Saari, American Mathematical Society, 2005, ISBN 0821832506.
  94. ^ Gullberg, Jan (1997). Mathematics From The Birth Of Numbers. W. W. Norton
  95. ^ Bell, E.T. [1937] (1986). Men of Mathematics, Touchstone edition, New York: Simon & Schuster, pp. 91–2.
  96. ^ George Gheverghese Joseph (2000). The Crest of the Peacock. Princeton University Press.
  97. ^ "Monge, Gaspard, comte de Peluse." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 24 Aug. 2007 <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9053349>.
  98. ^ Artmann, Benno (1999). Euclid: The Creation of Mathematics. New York: Springer.
  99. ^ Biggs, N. Lloyd, E. and Wilson, R. (1986). Graph Theory, 1736-1936 . London: Oxford University Press
  100. ^ H.F. Baker (1926), "Corrado Segre", Journal of the London Mathematical Society 1:269
  101. ^ Marvin Jay Greenberg, Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometries: Development and history New York: W. H. Freeman, 1993.
  102. ^ p. 46, Aristarchus of Samos: The Ancient Copernicus, Thomas Heath, Oxford, 1913.
  103. ^ Stigler, Stephen M. (1990). The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty before 1900. Belknap Press/Harvard University Press.
  104. ^ O'Connor, John J; Edmund F. Robertson "Gérard Desargues". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.
  105. ^ O'Connor, John J; Edmund F. Robertson "Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.
  106. ^ Boyer (1991). "Greek Trigonometry and Mensuration". A History of Mathematics (Second Edition ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. pp. 162. ISBN 0471543977. "For some two and a half centuries, from Hippocrates to Eratosthenes, Greek mathematicians had studied relationships between lines and circles and had applied these in a variety of astronomical problems, but no systematic trigonometry had resulted. Then, presumably during the second half of the second century B.C., the first trigonometric table apparently was compiled by the astronomer Hipparchus of Nicaea (ca. 180-ca. 125 B.C.), who thus earned the right to be known as "the father of trigonometry." Aristarchus had known that in a given circle the ratio of arc to chord decreases from 180° to 0°, tending toward a limit of 1. However, it appears that not until Hipparchus undertook the task had anyone tabulated corresponding values of arc and chord for a whole series of angles." 
  107. ^ Boyer's opinion may constructively be compared to Øystein Ore's opinion, that the Babylonians constructed trigonometric tables ca 1600 BCE (Ore (1988). "Diophantine Problems". Number Theory and its History. Dover Publications, Inc.. pp. 176–179. ISBN 0-486-65620-9. "The tablet, catalogued as Plimpton 322, is composed in Old Babylonian script so that it must fall in the period from 1900 B.C. and 1600 B.C., at least a millennium before the Pythagoreans... It is evident, however, that at this early date the Babylonians not only had completely mastered the Pythagorean problem, but also had used it as the basis for the construction of trigonometric tables." )
  108. ^ Michael J. Crowe (1994). A History of Vector Analysis : The Evolution of the Idea of a Vectorial System. Dover Publications; Reprint edition.
  109. ^ Edward Lorenz, father of chaos theory and butterfly effect, dies at 90 - MIT News Office
  110. ^ Conway, F., and Siegelman, J., 2005. Dark Hero of the Information Age: in search of Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics. Basic Books, New York. 423pp. ISBN 0-7382-0368-8
  111. ^ Bell Labs website: "For example, Claude Shannon, the father of Information Theory, had a passion..."
  112. ^ 2004 Distinguished Alumni
  113. ^ Bryson, A.E.; Ho, Y.C. (1975). Applied optimal control. Washington, DC: Hemisphere. 
  114. ^ p. 22, A Short History of Scientific Ideas to 1900, Charles Singer, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959.
  115. ^ Akbar S. Ahmed (1984). "Al-Beruni: The First Anthropologist", RAIN 60, p. 9-10.
  116. ^ a b Zafarul-Islam Khan, At The Threshhold Of A New Millennium – II, The Milli Gazette.
  117. ^ a b H. Mowlana (2001). "Information in the Arab World", Cooperation South Journal 1.
  118. ^ Woods, Thomas. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, p 4 & 109. (Washington, DC: Regenery, 2005); ISBN 0-89526-038-7.
  119. ^ Hart, Michael H. (1989). "The 100: A ranking of the most influential persons in history", New York: Carol Publishing group. pg. 465
  120. ^ Dr. S. W. Akhtar (1997). "The Islamic Concept of Knowledge", Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought & Culture 12 (3).
  121. ^ Willcox, William Bradford; Arnstein, Walter L. (1966). The Age of Aristocracy, 1688 to 1830. Volume III of A History of England, edited by Lacey Baldwin Smith (Sixth Edition, 1992 ed.). Lexington, MA. p. 133. ISBN 0-669-24459-7. "Adam Ferguson of Edinburgh became "the father of modern sociology."" 
  122. ^ Auguste Comte, Britannica Student Encyclopedia. Accessed October 5, 2006.
  123. ^ p. 87, Full Meridian of Glory, Paul Murdin, New York: Springer, 2009, ISBN 978-0-387-75533-5 (print), ISBN 978-0-387-75534-2 (online).
  124. ^ I. M. Oweiss (1988), "Ibn Khaldun, the Father of Economics", Arab Civilization: Challenges and Responses, New York University Press, ISBN 0887066984.
  125. ^ L. K. Jha, K. N. Jha (1998). "Chanakya: the pioneer economist of the world", International Journal ertrtrtrtof Social Economics 25 (2-4), p. 267-282
  126. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (2006). "Chapter 12 — The founding father of modern economics: Richard Cantillon". Economic thought before Adam Smith: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought. Cheltnam, UK: Edward Elgar. pp. 345. ISBN 094546648X. "The honour of being called the 'father of modern economics' belongs, then, not to its usual recipient, Adam Smith, but to a gallicized Irish merchant, banker, and adventurer who wrote the first treatise on economics more than four decades before the publication of the Wealth of Nations. Richard Cantillon (c. early 1680s-1734)..." 
  127. ^ Steven Pressman. Fifty Major Economists. (1999). Routledge. ISBN 0415134811 p.20
  128. ^ Rothbard, p 379
  129. ^ Woods, p 155
  130. ^ Expanding Microcredit in India: A Great Opportunity for Poverty Alleviation, Grameen Dialogue.
  131. ^ Rothbard, p 167
  132. ^ Karl Marx (1863): Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 10:

    Carey (the passage to be looked up later) therefore denounces him as the father of communism.

    “Mr. Ricardo’s system is one of discords ...its whole tends to the production of hostility among classes and nations... His hook is the true manual of the demagogue, who seeks power by means of agrarianism, war, and plunder.” (H. C. Carey, The Past, the Present, and the Future, Philadelphia, 1848, pp. 74–75.)

  133. ^ Rothbard, p 102
  134. ^ Rothbard, p 100-101
  135. ^ Harry Markowitz, "the father of Modern Portfolio Theory," To Highlight Investment Consultants Conference
  136. ^ Finocchiaro, Maurice A. (Fall 2007), "Book Review—The Person of the Millennium: The Unique Impact of Galileo on World History", The Historian 69 (3): 601–602
  137. ^ Weidhorn, Manfred (2005). The Person of the Millennium: The Unique Impact of Galileo on World History. Universe, p. 155.
  138. ^ MLA style: "Bacon, Francis, Viscount Saint Alban, Baron of Verulam." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 28 Dec. 2007 <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9108408>. APA style: Bacon, Francis, Viscount Saint Alban, Baron of Verulam. (2007).
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