One of the leading figures to bring the world closer to the modern scientific age was Sir Francis bacon. He was born in London in 1561 and became Lord Chancellor of England in 1618. But then he fell into debt and had to leave politics. However, science became the winner.
The “scientific method” which was championed by bacon, as well as others, proclaimed that theories should be tested out by experimentation before being adopted by as being something which was correct and could be relied upon. This was a big step forward but one of his own experiments would prove fatal to him. And what is more, it concerned a frozen chicken.
Bacon theorised that freezing meat would allow it to last longer. Today, we take this for granted but it was not so straightforward in Bacon’s day. In fact, a friend of his, Doctor Winterbourne, did not agree with this hypothesis. This disagreement occurred whilst the two were travelling in a horse-drawn carriage near to Hampstead, North London. It was April and there was still snow on the ground. Bacon ordered the driver to stop the carriage. Bacon got out and walked up to the nearest house and knocked on the door. A lady answered and he negotiated a fresh, but dead chicken off her.
He took the bird to an area close by, now called Pond Square in Highgate. There, he stuffed the chicken with snow and then put it in a bag also packed with snow. He then buried it. This exercise resulted in Bacon becoming very chilled which so concerned his companion, that he ordered the driver to take them to the home of the Earl of Arundel who lived close by and whom they knew. Bacon was put to bed but because the Earl was away, the bedclothes were damp and Bacon’s condition worsened. Within a couple of days, he was dead.
Bacon was a scientist to the end of his life. And before he died, he left a note to the Earl telling him where he had buried the chicken. When it was eventually uncovered, Bacon was proved to have been correct; the meat had been preserved. But he had paid a high price for the advancement of science.
There is a creepy footnote to this story. Pond Square exists today although the pond has gone. It is said that on certain occasions a ghostly chicken can be seen haunting the square.