Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley

Woodburytype print of Huxley (1880 or earlier)
Born(1825-05-04)4 May 1825
Died29 June 1895(1895-06-29) (aged 70)
Eastbourne, Sussex, England
Known forEvolution, science education, agnosticism
Scientific career
FieldsZoology; comparative anatomy
InstitutionsRoyal Navy, Royal College of Surgeons, Royal School of Mines, Royal Institution University of London
Academic advisorsThomas Wharton Jones
Notable students
Thomas Huxley Signature in Cassell's Universal Portrait Gallery.jpg

Thomas Henry Huxley PC FRS HonFRSE FLS (4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895) was an English biologist and anthropologist who specialized in comparative anatomy. He has become known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.[2]

The stories regarding Huxley's famous 1860 Oxford evolution debate with Samuel Wilberforce were a key moment in the wider acceptance of evolution and in his own career, although some historians think that the surviving story of the debate is a later fabrication.[3] Huxley had been planning to leave Oxford on the previous day, but, after an encounter with Robert Chambers, the author of Vestiges, he changed his mind and decided to join the debate. Wilberforce was coached by Richard Owen, against whom Huxley also debated about whether humans were closely related to apes.

Huxley was slow to accept some of Darwin's ideas, such as gradualism, and was undecided about natural selection, but despite this he was wholehearted in his public support of Darwin. Instrumental in developing scientific education in Britain, he fought against the more extreme versions of religious tradition. Huxley coined the term "agnosticism" in 1869 and elaborated on it in 1889 to frame the nature of claims in terms of what is knowable and what is not.

Huxley had little formal schooling and was virtually self-taught. He became perhaps the finest comparative anatomist of the later 19th century.[4] He worked on invertebrates, clarifying relationships between groups previously little understood. Later, he worked on vertebrates, especially on the relationship between apes and humans. After comparing Archaeopteryx with Compsognathus, he concluded that birds evolved from small carnivorous dinosaurs, a view now held by modern biologists.

The tendency has been for this fine anatomical work to be overshadowed by his energetic and controversial activity in favour of evolution, and by his extensive public work on scientific education, both of which had significant effects on society in Britain and elsewhere.[5][6] Huxley's 1893 Romanes Lecture, "Evolution and Ethics", is exceedingly influential in China; the Chinese translation of Huxley's lecture even transformed the Chinese translation of Darwin's Origin of Species.[7]

  1. ^ Adrian J. Desmond, Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest, Addison-Wesley, 1994, 1915, p. 651 n. 8.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online 2006
  3. ^ Livingstone, David. "Myth 17. That Huxley Defeated Wilberforce in Their Debate over Evolution and Religion," in Numbers, Ronald L., ed. Galileo goes to jail and other myths about science and religion. No. 74. Harvard University Press, 2009, 152–160.
  4. ^ Poulton E. B. 1909. Charles Darwin and the origin of species. London.
  5. ^ Lankester, Ray 1895. The Right Hon. T. H. Huxley. Athenaeum, 6 July. Lankester commented that Huxley was "only accidentally a zoologist".
  6. ^ Desmond 1997 'Huxley in perspective', 235–261, an outstanding summary of Huxley in his social & historical context, scarcely mentions his zoological work.
  7. ^ Jin, Xiaoxing (2019). "Translation and transmutation: the Origin of Species in China". The British Journal for the History of Science. 52 (1): 117–141. doi:10.1017/S0007087418000808. PMID 30587253. S2CID 58605626.

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