Subtitle: A Life of Roger Bacon
Not a gripping story, not by the author's fault, nor the subject's. Bacon probably had a gripping life - theological and scientific controversy, not that he would have distinguished between the two - but it takes a summary of 13th century religious politics to explain why. Maybe he was imprisoned in durance particularly vile, without even the sacrament of confession; there is a gap in his known writing, and a story of his having been imprisoned. There are also stories of his having made a brass head speak and having attended colleges not founded until after his death. Plenty of the book is on later misrepresentations of Bacon (as author of the Voynich manuscript, for instance).
Still, Clegg's last chapter makes an argument for Bacon's having nailed together the four legs of science. He lists these -
So maybe Roger Bacon wasn't a great scientist in the modern sense, but would have been a worldshaker if he ran a university; except that he ran through an enormous family fortune, and wasn't good at politics or diplomacy. Clegg argues that his failure to bend to authority is part of his nascent scientific worldview; that seems very fair. Clegg also describes him as more a theoretician of how applied science should have been done than an applied scientist, and that also seems fair.
Update: at least one manuscript partly by Roger Bacon has been scanned and put online by the Bodleian; and it has annotations by .
¹ That "everyone knows" a plant is a machine for making other similar plants.
² He is, I think, often respectably cautious in saying when he is reporting tales heard from travellers; early anthropology.