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Thomas Henry Huxley

Woodburytype print of Huxley (1880 or earlier)
Born 4 May 1825(1825-05-04)
Ealing, Middlesex
Died 29 June 1895 (aged 70)
Eastbourne, Sussex
Residence London
Nationality British
Fields Zoology; Comparative anatomy
Institutions Royal Navy, Royal College of Surgeons, Royal School of Mines, Royal Institution University of London
Alma mater Sydenham College London
Charing Cross Hospital
Known for Evolution, Science education, Agnosticism
Influences Thomas Wharton Jones
Edward Forbes, Charles Darwin
Influenced Michael Foster, Patrick Geddes
Henry Fairfield Osborn
H.G. Wells, E. Ray Lankester

Thomas Henry Huxley PC FRS (4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895) was an English biologist, known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.[1]

Huxley's famous 1860 debate with Samuel Wilberforce was a key moment in the wider acceptance of evolution, and in his own career. 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 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. He was instrumental in developing scientific education in Britain, and fought against the more extreme versions of religious tradition.

Huxley used the term 'agnostic' to describe his own views on theology, a term whose use has continued to the present day (see Thomas Henry Huxley and agnosticism).[2]

Huxley had little formal schooling and taught himself almost everything he knew. Remarkably, he became perhaps the finest comparative anatomist of the latter 19th century.[3] 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 widely held today. 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.[citation needed]



Early life

Thomas Henry Huxley was born in Ealing, then a village in Middlesex. He was the second youngest of eight children of George Huxley and Rachel Withers. Like some other British scientists of the nineteenth century such as Alfred Russel Wallace, Huxley was brought up in a literate middle-class family which had fallen on hard times. His father was a mathematics teacher at Ealing School until it closed,[4] putting the family into financial difficulties. As a result, Thomas left school at age 10, after only two years of formal schooling. One of Huxley's brothers, James Huxley (1821-1907), a medical practitioner, was a fairly well known Victorian psychiatrist, serving for many years as superintendent of Kent County Asylum, near Maidstone.

Despite this unenviable start, Huxley was determined to educate himself. He became one of the great autodidacts of the nineteenth century. At first he read Thomas Carlyle, James Hutton's Geology, Hamilton's Logic. In his teens he taught himself German, eventually becoming fluent and used by Charles Darwin as a translator of scientific material in German. He learnt Latin, and enough Greek to read Aristotle in the original.

Huxley, aged 21

Later on, as a young adult, he made himself an expert first on invertebrates, and later on vertebrates, all self-taught. He was skilled in drawing, and did many of the illustrations for his publications on marine invertebrates. In his later debates and writing on science and religion his grasp of theology was better than most of his clerical opponents. So, a boy who left school at ten became one of the most knowledgeable men in Britain.[5][6]

He was apprenticed for short periods to several medical practitioners: at 13 to his brother-in-law John Cooke in Coventry, who passed him on to Thomas Chandler, notable for his experiments using mesmerism for medical purposes. Chandler's practice was in London's Rotherhithe amidst the squalor endured by the Dickensian poor. Here Thomas would have seen poverty, crime and rampant disease at its worst.[7] Next, another brother-in-law took him on: John Salt, his eldest sister's husband. Now 16, Huxley entered Sydenham College (behind University College Hospital), a cut-price anatomy school whose founder Marshall Hall discovered the reflex arc. All this time Huxley continued his program of reading, which more than made up for his lack of formal schooling.

A year later, buoyed by excellent results and a silver medal prize in the Apothecaries' yearly competition, Huxley was admitted to study at Charing Cross Hospital, where he obtained a small scholarship. At Charing Cross, he was taught by the remarkable Scot, Thomas Wharton Jones, who had been Robert Knox's assistant when Knox bought cadavers from Burke and Hare.[8]

The young Wharton Jones, who acted as go-between, was exonerated of crime, but thought it best to leave Scotland. He was a fine teacher, up-to-date in physiology and also an ophthalmic surgeon. In 1845, under Wharton Jones' guidance, Huxley published his first scientific paper demonstrating the existence of a hitherto unrecognized layer in the inner sheath of hairs, a layer that has been known since as Huxley's layer. No doubt remembering this, and of course knowing his merit, later in life Huxley organised a pension for his old tutor.

At twenty he passed his First M.B. examination at the University of London, winning the gold medal for anatomy and physiology. However, he did not present himself for the final (2nd M.B.) exams and consequently did not qualify with a university degree. His apprenticeships and exam results formed a sufficient basis for his application to the Royal Navy.[5][6]

Voyage of the Rattlesnake

Aged 20, Huxley was too young to apply to the Royal College of Surgeons for a licence to practice, yet he was 'deep in debt'.[9] So, at a friend's suggestion, he applied for an appointment in the Royal Navy. He had references on character and certificates showing the time spent on his apprenticeship and on requirements such as dissection and pharmacy. Sir William Burnett, the Physician General of the Navy, interviewed him and arranged for the College of Surgeons to test his competence (by means of a viva voce).

HMS Rattlesnake
by ship's artist Oswald Brierly

Finally Huxley was made Assistant Surgeon ('surgeon's mate') to HMS Rattlesnake, about to start for a voyage of discovery and surveying to New Guinea and Australia. Rattlesnake left England on 3 December 1846 and, once they had arrived in the southern hemisphere, Huxley devoted his time to the study of marine invertebrates.[10] He began to send details of his discoveries back to England, where publication was arranged by Edward Forbes FRS (who had also been a pupil of Knox). Both before and after the voyage Forbes was something of a mentor to Huxley.

Huxley's paper On the anatomy and the affinities of the family of Medusae was published in 1849 by the Royal Society in its Philosophical Transactions. Huxley united the Hydroid and Sertularian polyps with the Medusae to form a class to which he subsequently gave the name of Hydrozoa. The connection he made was that all the members of the class consisted of two cell layers, enclosing a central cavity or stomach. This is characteristic of the phylum now called the Cnidaria. He compared this feature to the serous and mucous structures of embryos of higher animals. When at last he got a grant from the Royal Society for the printing of plates, Huxley was able to summarise this work in The Oceanic Hydrozoa, published by the Ray Society in 1859.[11][12]

Australian woman:
Pencil drawing by Huxley

The value of Huxley's work was recognized and, on returning to England in 1850, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In the following year, at the age of twenty-six, he not only received the Royal Society Medal but was also elected to the Council. He met Joseph Dalton Hooker and John Tyndall,[13] who remained his lifelong friends. The Admiralty retained him as a nominal assistant-surgeon, so he might work on the specimens he collected and the observations he made during the voyage of Rattlesnake. He solved the problem of Appendicularia, whose place in the animal kingdom Johannes Peter Müller had found himself wholly unable to assign. It and the Ascidians are both, as Huxley showed, tunicates, today regarded as a sister group to the vertebrates in the phylum Chordata.[14] Other papers on the morphology of the cephalopods and on brachiopods and rotifers are also noteworthy.[5][6][15] The Rattlesnake's official naturalist, John MacGillivray, did some work on botany, and proved surprisingly good at notating Australian aboriginal languages. He wrote up the voyage in the standard Victorian two volume format.[16]

Later life

Huxley effectively resigned from the navy (by refusing to return to active service) and, in July 1854, he became Professor of Natural History at the Royal School of Mines and naturalist to the Geological Survey in the following year. In addition, he was Fullerian Professor at the Royal Institution 1855–58 and 1865–67; Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons 1863–69; President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 1869–1870; and, later, President of the Royal Society 1883–85; and Inspector of Fisheries 1881–85.[6]

The thirty-one years during which Huxley occupied the chair of natural history at the Royal School of Mines included work on vertebrate palaeontology and on many projects to advance the place of science in British life. Huxley retired in 1885, after a bout of depressive illness which started in 1884. He resigned the Presidency of the Royal Society in mid-term, the Inspectorship of Fisheries, and his chair (as soon as he decently could) and took six month's leave. His pension was a fairly handsome £1500 a year.

In 1890, he moved from London to Eastbourne where he edited the nine volumes of his Collected Essays. In 1894 he heard of the Eugene Dubois' discovery in Java of the remains of Pithecanthropus erectus (now known as Homo erectus). Finally, in 1895, he died of a heart attack (after contracting influenza and pneumonia), and was buried in North London at St Marylebone. This small family plot had been purchased upon the death of his beloved youngest son Noel, who died of scarlet fever in 1860; Huxley's wife is also buried there. No invitations were sent out, but two hundred people turned up for the ceremony; they included Hooker, Flower, Foster, Lankester, Joseph Lister and, apparently, Henry James.[17]

Public duties and awards

From 1870 onwards, Huxley was to some extent drawn away from scientific research by the claims of public duty. He served on eight Royal Commissions, from 1862 to 1884. From 1871–80 he was a Secretary of the Royal Society and from 1883–85 he was President. He was President of the Geological Society from 1868–70. In 1870, he was President of the British Association at Liverpool and, in the same year was elected a member of the newly-constituted London School Board. He was the leading person amongst those who reformed the Royal Society, persuaded government about science, and established scientific education in British schools and universities.[18] Before him, science was mostly a gentleman's occupation; after him, science was a profession.[19]

He was awarded the highest honours then open to British men of science. The Royal Society, who had elected him as Fellow when he was 25 (1851), awarded him the Royal Medal the next year (1852), a year before Charles Darwin got the same award. He was the youngest biologist to receive such recognition. Then later in life came the Copley Medal in 1888 and the Darwin Medal in 1894; the Geological Society awarded him the Wollaston Medal in 1876; the Linnean Society awarded him the Linnean Medal in 1890. There were many other elections and appointments to eminent scientific bodies; these and his many academic awards are listed in the Life and Letters. He turned down many other appointments, notably the Linacre chair in zoology at Oxford and the Mastership of University College, Oxford.[20]

by Bassano c1883

In 1873 the King of Sweden made Huxley, Hooker and Tyndall Knights of the Order of the North Star: they could wear the insignia but not use the title in Britain.[21] Huxley collected many honorary memberships of foreign societies, academic awards and honorary doctorates from Britain and Germany.

As recognition of his many public services he was given a pension by the state, and was appointed Privy Councillor in 1892.

There was so much achievement in his life that it seems extraordinary that he was given no award by the British state until late in life. In this he did better than Darwin, who got no award of any kind from the state. (Darwin's proposed knighthood was vetoed by ecclesiastical advisors, including Wilberforce)[22] Perhaps Huxley had commented too often on his dislike of honours, or perhaps his many assaults on the traditional beliefs of organised religion made enemies in the establishment—he had vigorous debates in print with Prime Ministers Disraeli, Gladstone and Arthur Balfour, and his relationship with Lord Salisbury was less than tranquil.[23][6]

Huxley was for about thirty years evolution's most effective advocate, and for some Huxley was "the premier advocate of science in the nineteenth century [for] the whole English-speaking world".[24]

Though he had many admirers and disciples, his retirement and later death left British zoology somewhat bereft of leadership. He had, directly or indirectly, guided the careers and appointments of the next generation, but none were of his stature. The loss of Francis Balfour in 1882, climbing the Alps just after he was appointed to a chair at Cambridge, was a tragedy. Huxley thought he was "the only man who can carry out my work": the deaths of Balfour and W.K. Clifford were "the greatest losses to science in our time".[6]

Vertebrate palaeontology

The first half of Huxley's career as a palaeontologist is marked by a rather strange predilection for 'persistent types', in which he seemed to argue that evolutionary advancement (in the sense of major new groups of animals and plants) was rare or absent in the Phanerozoic. In the same vein, he tended to push the origin of major groups such as birds and mammals back into the Palaeozoic era, and to claim that no order of plants had ever gone extinct.

Much paper has been consumed by historians of science ruminating on this strange and somewhat unclear idea.[25] Huxley was wrong to pitch the loss of orders in the Phanerozoic as low as 7%, and he did not estimate the number of new orders which evolved. Persistent types sat rather uncomfortably next to Darwin's more fluid ideas; despite his intelligence, it took Huxley a surprisingly long time to appreciate some of the implications of evolution. However, gradually Huxley moved away from this conservative style of thinking as his understanding of palaeontology, and the discipline itself, developed.

Huxley's detailed anatomical work was, as always, first-rate and productive. His work on fossil fish shows his distinctive approach: whereas pre-Darwinian naturalists collected, identified and classified, Huxley worked mainly to reveal the evolutionary relationships between groups.

Huxley by Wirgman
a drawing in pencil, 1882

The lobed-finned fish (such as coelacanths and lung fish) have paired appendages whose internal skeleton is attached to the shoulder or pelvis by a single bone, the humerus or femur. His interest in these fish brought him close to the origin of tetrapods, one of the most important areas of vertebrate palaeontology.[26][27][28]

The study of fossil reptiles led to his demonstrating the fundamental affinity of birds and reptiles, which he united under the title of Sauropsida. His papers on Archaeopteryx and the origin of birds were of great interest then and still are.[15][29][30]

Apart from his interest in persuading the world that man was a primate, and had descended from the same stock as the apes, Huxley did little work on mammals, with one exception. On his tour of America Huxley was shown the remarkable series of fossil horses, discovered by O.C. Marsh, in Yale's Peabody Museum.[31][32] Marsh was part palaeontologist, part robber baron, a man who had hunted buffalo and met Red Cloud (in 1874). Funded by his uncle George Peabody, Marsh had made some remarkable discoveries: the huge Cretaceous aquatic bird Hesperornis, and the dinosaur footprints along the Connecticut River were worth the trip by themselves, but the horse fossils were really special.

The collection at that time went from the small four-toed forest-dwelling Orohippus from the Eocene through three-toed species such as Miohippus to species more like the modern horse. By looking at their teeth he could see that, as the size grew larger and the toes reduced, the teeth changed from those of a browser to those of a grazer. All such changes could be explained by a general alteration in habitat from forest to grassland. And, we now know, that is what did happen over large areas of North America from the Eocene to the Pleistocene: the ultimate causative agent was global temperature reduction (see Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum). The modern account of the evolution of the horse has many other members, and the overall appearance of the tree of descent is more like a bush than a straight line.

The horse series also strongly suggested that the process was gradual, and that the origin of the modern horse lay in North America, not in Eurasia. And if so, then something must have happened to horses in North America, since none were there when the Spanish arrived... That, however, is another story. The experience was enough for Huxley to give credence to Darwin's gradualism, and to introduce the story of the horse into his lecture series.

Darwin's bulldog

The frontispiece to Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863): the image compares the skeletons of apes to humans. The gibbon (left) is double size.

Huxley was originally not persuaded of 'development theory' as evolution was once called. We can see that in his savage review[33] of Robert Chambers' Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a book which contained some quite pertinent arguments in favour of evolution. Huxley had also rejected Lamarck's theory of transmutation, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to support it. All this scepticism was brought together in a lecture to the Royal Institution,[34] which made Darwin anxious enough to set about an effort to change young Huxley's mind. It was the kind of thing Darwin did with his closest scientific friends, but he must have had some particular intuition about Huxley, who was from all accounts a most impressive person even as a young man.[35][36]

Huxley was therefore one of the small group who knew about Darwin's views before they were published (the group included Joseph Dalton Hooker and Charles Lyell). The first publication by Darwin of his ideas came when Wallace sent Darwin his famous paper on natural selection, which was presented by Lyell and Hooker to the Linnean Society in 1858 alongside excerpts from Darwin's notebook and a Darwin letter to Asa Gray.[37][38] Huxley's famous response to the idea of natural selection was "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!".[39] However, the correctness of natural selection as the main mechanism for evolution was to lie permanently in Huxley's mental pending tray. He never conclusively made up his mind about it, though he did admit it was a hypothesis which was a good working basis.

Logically speaking, the prior question was whether evolution had taken place at all. It is to this question that much of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was devoted. Its publication in 1859 completely convinced Huxley of evolution and it was this and no doubt his admiration of Darwin's way of amassing and using evidence that formed the basis of his support for Darwin in the debates that followed the book's publication.

Huxley's support started with his anonymous favourable review of the Origin in the Times for 26 December 1859,[40] and continued with articles in several periodicals, and in a lecture at the Royal Institution in February 1860.[41] At the same time, Richard Owen, whilst writing an extremely hostile anonymous review of the Origin in the Edinburgh Review,[42] also primed Samuel Wilberforce who wrote one in the Quarterly Review, running to 17,000 words.[43] The authorship of this latter review was not known for sure until Wilberforce's son wrote his biography. So it can be said that, just as Darwin groomed Huxley, so Owen groomed Wilberforce; and both the proxies fought public battles on behalf of their principals as much as themselves. Though we do not know the exact words of the Oxford debate, we do know what Huxley thought of the review in the Quarterly:

Caricature of Huxley by
Carlo Pellegrini in Vanity Fair 1871
"Since Lord Brougham assailed Dr Young, the world has seen no such specimen of the insolence of a shallow pretender to a Master in Science as this remarkable production, in which one of the most exact of observers, most cautious of reasoners, and most candid of expositors, of this or any other age, is held up to scorn as a "flighty" person, who endeavours "to prop up his utterly rotten fabric of guess and speculation," and whose "mode of dealing with nature" is reprobated as "utterly dishonourable to Natural Science."
If I confine my retrospect of the reception of the 'Origin of Species' to a twelvemonth, or thereabouts, from the time of its publication, I do not recollect anything quite so foolish and unmannerly as the Quarterly Review article...[44][45]

"I am Darwin's bulldog" said Huxley, and it is apt; the second half of Darwin's life was lived mainly within his family, and the younger, combative Huxley operated mainly out in the world at large. A letter from THH to Ernst Haeckel (2 November 1871) goes "The dogs have been snapping at [Darwin's] heels too much of late."

Debate with Wilberforce

Famously, Huxley responded to Wilberforce in the debate at the British Association meeting, on Saturday 30 June 1860 at the Oxford University Museum. His presence there had been encouraged by Robert Chambers, the Scottish publisher and author of "Vestiges" who had met Huxley walking the streets of Oxford in a dispirited state on the previous evening. Huxley was joined at the debate by his and Darwin's friends Hooker and Lubbock, and they were opposed by the Lord Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, and Robert FitzRoy, the captain of HMS Beagle. The chair for this debate was Darwins's former botany tutor John Stevens Henslow, and flanking him on the platform were Dr John William Draper from New York, Rev Dingle, Hooker, Lubbock, Brodie, Professor Beale and Huxley.[46]

Wilberforce had a track record against evolution as far back as the previous Oxford B.A. meeting in 1847 when he attacked Chambers' Vestiges. For the more challenging task of opposing the Origin, and the implication that man descended from apes, he had been assiduously coached by Richard Owen – Owen stayed with him the night before the debate.[47] On the day Wilberforce repeated some of the arguments from his Quarterly Review article (written but not yet published), then ventured onto slippery ground. His famous jibe at Huxley (as to whether Huxley was descended from an ape on his mother's side or his father's side) was probably unplanned, and certainly unwise. Huxley's reply to the effect that he would rather be descended from an ape than a man who misused his great talents to suppress debate—the exact wording is not certain—was widely recounted in pamphlets and a spoof play.

The letters of Alfred Newton include one to his brother giving an eye-witness account of the debate, and written less than a month afterwards.[48] Other eyewitnesses, with one or two exceptions (Hooker especially thought he had made the best points), give similar accounts, at varying dates after the event.[49] The general view was and still is that Huxley got much the better of the exchange though Wilberforce himself thought he had done quite well. In the absence of a verbatim report differing perceptions are difficult to judge fairly; Huxley wrote a detailed account for Darwin, a letter which does not survive; however, a letter to his friend Frederick Daniel Dyster does survive with an account just three months after the event.[50][51][52][53][54][55]

One effect of the debate was to increase hugely Huxley's visibility amongst educated people, through the accounts in newspapers and periodicals. Another consequence was to alert him to the importance of public debate: a lesson he never forgot. A third effect was to serve notice that Darwinian ideas could not be easily dismissed: on the contrary, they would be vigorously defended against orthodox authority.[56][57] A fourth effect was to promote professionalism in science, with its implied need for scientific education. A fifth consequence was indirect: as Wilberforce had feared, a defence of evolution did undermine literal belief in the Old Testament, especially the Book of Genesis. Many of the liberal clergy at the meeting were quite pleased with the outcome of the debate; they were supporters, perhaps, of the controversial Essays and Reviews. Thus both on the side of science, and on the side of religion, the debate was important, and its outcome significant.[58] (see also below)

That Huxley and Wilberforce remained on courteous terms after the debate (and able to work together on projects such as the Metropolitan Board of Education) says something about both men, whereas Huxley and Owen were never reconciled.

Man's place in nature

For nearly a decade his work was directed mainly to the relationship of man to the apes. This led him directly into a clash with Richard Owen, a man widely disliked for his behaviour whilst also being admired for his capability. The struggle was to culminate in some severe defeats for Owen. Huxley's Croonian Lecture, delivered before the Royal Society in 1858 on The Theory of the Vertebrate Skull was the start. In this, he rejected Owen's view that the bones of the skull and the spine were homologous, an opinion previously held by Goethe and Lorenz Oken.[59]

Huxley at 32

From 1860–63 Huxley developed his ideas, presenting them in lectures to working men, students and the general public, followed by publication. Also in 1862 a series of talks to working men was printed lecture by lecture as pamphlets, later bound up as a little green book; the first copies went on sale in December.[60] Other lectures grew into Huxley's most famous work Evidence as to Man's place in Nature (1863) where he addressed the key issues long before Charles Darwin published his Descent of Man in 1871.

Although Darwin did not publish his Descent of Man until 1871, the general debate on this topic had started years before (there was even a precursor debate in the 18th century between Monboddo and Buffon). Darwin had dropped a hint when, in the conclusion to the Origin, he wrote: "In the distant future... light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history".[61] Not so distant, as it turned out. A key event had already occurred in 1857 when Richard Owen presented (to the Linnean Society) his view that man was marked off from all other mammals by possessing features of the brain peculiar to the genus Homo. Having reached this opinion, Owen separated man from all other mammals in a subclass of its own.[62] No other biologist held such an extreme view. Darwin reacted " distinct from a chimpanzee [as] an ape from a platypus... I cannot swallow that!"[63] Neither could Huxley, who was able to demonstrate that Owen's idea was completely wrong.

Huxley with sketch
of a gorilla skull (c1870)

The subject was raised at the 1860 BA Oxford meeting, when Huxley flatly contradicted Owen, and promised a later demonstration of the facts. In fact, a number of demonstrations were held in London and the provinces. In 1862 at the Cambridge meeting of the B.A. Huxley's friend William Flower gave a public dissection to show that the same structures (the posterior horn of the lateral ventricle and hippocampus minor) were indeed present in apes. Thus was exposed one of Owen's greatest blunders, revealing Huxley as not only dangerous in debate, but also a better anatomist.

Owen conceded that there was something that could be called a hippocampus minor in the apes, but stated that it was much less developed and that such a presence did not detract from the overall distinction of simple brain size.[64]

Huxley's ideas on this topic were summed up in January 1861 in the first issue (new series) of his own journal, the Natural History Review: "the most violent scientific paper he had ever composed".[37] This paper was reprinted in 1863 as chapter 2 of Man's Place in Nature, with an addendum giving his account of the Owen/Huxley controversy about the ape brain.[65] In his Collected Essays this addendum was edited out.

The extended argument on the ape brain, partly in debate and partly in print, backed by dissections and demonstrations, was a landmark in Huxley's career. It was highly important in asserting his dominance of comparative anatomy, and in the long run more influential in establishing evolution amongst biologists than was the debate with Wilberforce. It also marked the start of Owen's decline in the esteem of his fellow biologists.

The following was written by Huxley to Rolleston before the 1861 BA meeting:

"My dear Rolleston... The obstinate reiteration of erroneous assertions can only be nullified by as persistent an appeal to facts; and I greatly regret that my engagements do not permit me to be present at the British Association in order to assist personally at what, I believe, will be the seventh public demonstration during the past twelve months of the untruth of the three assertions, that the posterior lobe of the cerebrum, the posterior cornu of the lateral ventricle, and the hippocampus minor, are peculiar to man and do not exist in the apes. I shall be obliged if you will read this letter to the Section" Yours faithfully, Thos. H. Huxley.[66]

During those years there was also work on human fossil anatomy and anthropology. In 1862 he examined the Neanderthal skull-cap, which had been discovered in 1857. It was the first pre-sapiens discovery of a fossil man, and it was immediately clear to him that the brain case was surprisingly large.[67]

Perhaps less productive was his work on physical anthropology, a topic which fascinated the Victorians. Huxley classified the human races into nine categories, and discussed them under four headings as: Australoid, Negroid, Xanthocroic and Mongoloid types.[68] Such classifications depended mainly on appearance and anatomical characteristics. Modern molecular and genome analysis has shown that the genetic diversity of man in sub-Saharan Africa is greater than exists in the entire rest of the human race.[69][70][71]

Natural selection

Huxley was certainly not slavish in his dealings with Darwin. As shown in every biography, they had quite different and rather complementary characters. Important also, Darwin was a field naturalist, but Huxley was an anatomist, so there was a difference in their experience of nature. Lastly, Darwin's views on science were different from Huxley's views. For Darwin, natural selection was the best way to explain evolution because it explained a huge range of natural history facts and observations: it solved problems. Huxley, on the other hand, was an empiricist who trusted what he could see, and some things are not easily seen. With this in mind, one can appreciate the debate between them, Darwin writing his letters, Huxley never going quite so far as to say he thought Darwin was right.

Huxley's reservations on natural selection were of the type "until selection and breeding can be seen to give rise to varieties which are infertile with each other, natural selection cannot be proved".[72][73] Huxley's position on selection was agnostic; yet he gave no credence to any other theory.

Darwin's part in the discussion came mostly in letters, as was his wont, along the lines: "The empirical evidence you call for is both impossible in practical terms, and in any event unnecessary. It's the same as asking to see every step in the transformation (or the splitting) of one species into another. My way so many issues are clarified and problems solved; no other theory does nearly so well".[74]

Huxley's reservation, as Helena Cronin has so aptly remarked, was contagious: "it spread itself for years among all kinds of doubters of Darwinism".[75] One reason for this doubt was that comparative anatomy could address the question of descent, but not the question of mechanism.[76] Huxley's resistance to Darwin's massaging and suasion is evidence of mental firmness; he may be Darwin's bulldog, but not his poodle. At least he went so far as to say that he knew of no better hypothesis.

The X Club

In November 1864 Huxley succeeded in launching a dining club, the X Club, like-minded people working to advance the cause of science; not surprisingly, the club consisted of most of his closest friends. There were nine members, who decided at their first meeting that there should be no more. The members were: Huxley, John Tyndall, J.D. Hooker, John Lubbock (banker, biologist and neighbour of Darwin), Herbert Spencer (social philosopher and sub-editor of the Economist), William Spottiswoode (mathematician and the Queen's Printer), Thomas Hirst (Professor of Physics at University College London), Edward Frankland (the new Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution) and George Busk, zoologist and palaeontologist (formerly surgeon for HMS Dreadnought). All except Spencer were Fellows of the Royal Society. Tyndall was a particularly close friend; for many years they met regularly and discussed issues of the day. On more than one occasion Huxley joined Tyndall in the latter's trips into the Alps and helped with his investigations in glaciology.[77][78][79]

There were also some quite significant X-Club satellites such as William Flower and George Rolleston, (Huxley protegées), and liberal clergyman Arthur Stanley, the Dean of Westminster. Guests such as Charles Darwin and Hermann von Helmholtz were entertained from time to time.[80]

They would dine early on first Thursdays at a hotel, planning what to do; high on the agenda was to change the way the Royal Society Council did business. It was no coincidence that the Council met later that same evening. First item for the Xs was to get the Copley Medal for Darwin, which they managed after quite a struggle.

The next step was to acquire a journal to spread their ideas. This was the weekly Reader, which they bought, revamped and redirected. Huxley had already become part-owner of the Natural History Review[81] bolstered by the support of Lubbock, Rolleston, Busk and Carpenter (X-clubbers and satellites). The journal was switched to pro-Darwinian lines and relaunched in January 1861. After a stream of good articles the NHR failed after four years; but it had helped at a critical time for the establishment of evolution. The Reader also failed, despite its broader appeal which included art & literature as well as science. The periodical market was quite crowded at the time, but most probably the critical factor was Huxley's time; he was simply over-committed, and could not afford to hire full-time editors. This occurred often in his life: Huxley took on too many ventures, and was not so astute as Darwin at getting others to do work for him.

However, the experience gained with the Reader was put to good use when the X Club put their weight behind the founding of Nature in 1869. This time no mistakes were made: above all there was a permanent editor (though not full-time), Norman Lockyer, who served until 1919, a year before his death. In 1925, to celebrate his centenary, Nature issued a supplement devoted to Huxley.[82]

The peak of the X Club's influence was from 1873–85 as Hooker, Spottiswoode and Huxley were Presidents of the Royal Society in succession. Spencer resigned in 1889 after a dispute wth Huxley over state support for science.[83] After 1892 it was just an excuse for the surviving members to meet. Hooker died in 1911, and Lubbock (now Lord Avebury) was the last surviving member.

Huxley was also an active member of the Metaphysical Society, which ran from 1869–80.[84] It was formed around a nucleus of clergy and expanded to include all kinds of opinions. Tyndall and Huxley later joined The Club (founded by Dr. Johnson) when they could be sure that Owen would not turn up.[85]

Educational influence

When Huxley himself was young there were virtually no degrees in British universities in the biological sciences and few courses. Most biologists of his day were either self-taught, or took medical degrees. When he retired there were established chairs in biological disciplines in most universities, and a broad consensus on the curricula to be followed. Huxley was the single most influential person in this transformation.

School of Mines and Zoology

In the early 1870s the Royal School of Mines moved to new quarters in South Kensington; ultimately it would become one of the constituent parts of Imperial College London. The move gave Huxley the chance to give more prominence to laboratory work in biology teaching, an idea suggested by practice in German universities.[18] In the main, the method was based on the use of carefully chosen types, and depended on the dissection of anatomy, supplemented by microscopy, museum specimens and some elementary physiology at the hands of Foster.

The typical day would start with Huxley lecturing at 9am, followed by a program of laboratory work supervised by his demonstrators.[86] Huxley's demonstrators were picked men—all became leaders of biology in Britain in later life, spreading Huxley's ideas as well as their own. Michael Foster became Professor of Physiology at Cambridge; E. Ray Lankester became Jodrell Professor of Zoology at University College London (1875–91), Professor of Comparative Anatomy at Oxford (1891–98) and Director of the Natural History Museum (1898–1907); S.H. Vines became Professor of Botany at Cambridge; W.T. Thiselton-Dyer became Hooker's successor at Kew (he was already Hooker's son-in-law!); T. Jeffery Parker became Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy at University College, Cardiff; and William Rutherford[87] became the Professor of Physiology at Edinburgh. William Flower, Conservator to the Hunterian Museum, and THH's assistant in many dissections, became Sir William Flower, Hunterian Professor of Comparative Anatomy and, later, Director of the Natural History Museum.[23] It's a remarkable list of disciples, especially when contrasted with Owen who, in a longer professional life than Huxley, left no disciples at all. "No one fact tells so strongly against Owen... as that he has never reared one pupil or follower".[88]

Huxley's courses for students were so much narrower than the man himself that many were bewildered by the contrast: "The teaching of zoology by use of selected animal types has come in for much criticism";[89] Looking back in 1914 to his time as a student, Sir Arthur Shipley said "[Although] Darwin's later works all dealt with living organisms, yet our obsession was with the dead, with bodies preserved, and cut into the most refined slices".[90] E.W MacBride said "Huxley... would persist in looking at animals as material structures and not as living, active beings; in a word... he was a necrologist.[91] To put it simply, Huxley preferred to teach what he had actually seen with his own eyes.

Photograph of Huxley (c. 1890)

This largely morphological program of comparative anatomy remained at the core of most biological education for a hundred years until the advent of cell and molecular biology and interest in evolutionary ecology forced a fundamental rethink. It is an interesting fact that the methods of the field naturalists who led the way in developing the theory of evolution (Darwin, Wallace, Fritz Müller, Henry Bates) were scarcely represented at all in Huxley's program. Ecological investigation of life in its environment was virtually non-existent, and theory, evolutionary or otherwise, was at a discount. Michael Ruse finds no mention of evolution or Darwinism in any of the exams set by Huxley, and confirms the lecture content based on two complete sets of lecture notes.[92]

Since Darwin, Wallace and Bates did not hold teaching posts at any stage of their adult careers (and Műller never returned from Brazil) the imbalance in Huxley's program went uncorrected. It is surely strange that Huxley's courses did not contain an account of the evidence collected by those naturalists of life in the tropics; evidence which they had found so convincing, and which caused their views on evolution by natural selection to be so similar. Desmond suggests that "[biology] had to be simple, synthetic and assimilable [because] it was to train teachers and had no other heuristic function".[93] That must be part of the reason; indeed it does help to explain the stultifying nature of much school biology. But zoology as taught at all levels became far too much the product of one man.

Huxley was comfortable with comparative anatomy, at which he was the greatest master of the day. He was not an all-round naturalist like Darwin, who had shown clearly enough how to weave together detailed factual information and subtle arguments across the vast web of life. Huxley chose, in his teaching (and to some extent in his research) to take a more straightforward course, concentrating on his personal strengths.

Schools and the Bible

Huxley was also a major influence in the direction taken by British schools: in November 1870 he was voted onto the London School Board.[94] In primary schooling, he advocated a wide range of disciplines, similar to what is taught today: reading, writing, arithmetic, art, science, music, etc. In secondary education he recommended two years of basic liberal studies followed by two years of some upper-division work, focusing on a more specific area of study. A practical example is his famous essay On a piece of chalk [95] first published in Macmillan's Magazine in London, 1868. The piece reconstructs the geological history of Britain, from a simple piece of chalk and demonstrates science as "organized common sense".

Huxley supported the reading of the Bible in schools. This may seem out of step with his agnostic convictions, but he believed that the Bible's significant moral teachings and superb use of language were relevant to English life. "I do not advocate burning your ship to get rid of the cockroaches".[96] However, what Huxley proposed was to create an edited version of the Bible, shorn of "shortcomings and errors... statements to which men of science absolutely and entirely demur... These tender children [should] not be taught that which you do not yourselves believe."[97][98] The Board voted against his idea, but it also voted against the idea that public money should be used to support students attending church schools. Vigorous debate took place on such points, and the debates were minuted in detail. Huxley said "I will never be a party to enabling the State to sweep the children of this country into denominational schools".[99][100] The Act of Parliament which founded board schools permitted the reading of the Bible, but did not permit any denominational doctrine to be taught.

It may be right to see Huxley's life and work as contributing to the secularisation of British society which gradually occurred over the following century. Ernst Mayr said "It can hardly be doubted that [biology] has helped to undermine traditional beliefs and value systems"[101]  — and Huxley more than anyone else was responsible for this trend in Britain. Some modern Christian apologists consider Huxley the father of atheistic evangelism, though he himself maintained that he was an agnostic, not an atheist. He was, however, a lifelong and determined opponent of almost all forms of organised religion, especially the "Roman Church... carefully calculated for the destruction of all that is highest in the moral nature, in the intellectual freedom, and in the political freedom of mankind".[100][102] Perhaps Lenin was right when he remarked (in Materialism and empirio-criticism) "In Huxley's case... agnosticism serves as a fig-leaf for materialism" (see also the Debate with Wilberforce above).

Adult education

Huxley's interest in education went still further than school and university classrooms; he made a great effort to reach interested adults of all kinds: after all, he himself was largely self-educated. There were his lecture courses for working men, many of which were published afterwards, and there was the use he made of journalism, partly to earn money but mostly to reach out to the literate public. For most of his adult life he wrote for periodicals—the Westminster Review, the Saturday Review, the Reader, the Pall Mall Gazette, Macmillan's Magazine, the Contemporary Review. Germany was still ahead in formal science education, but interested people in Victorian Britain could use their initiative and find out what was going on by reading periodicals and using the lending libraries.[103][104]

In 1868 Huxley became Principal of the South London Working Men's College in Blackfriars Road. The moving spirit was a portmanteau worker, Wm. Rossiter, who did most of the work; the funds were put up mainly by F.D. Maurice's Christian Socialists.[105][106] At sixpence for a course and a penny for a lecture by Huxley, this was some bargain; and so was the free library organised by the college, an idea which was widely copied. Huxley thought, and said, that the men who attended were as good as any country squire.[107]

The technique of printing his more popular lectures in periodicals which were sold to the general public was extremely effective. A good example was The physical basis of life, a lecture given in Edinburgh on 8 November 1868. Its theme — that vital action is nothing more than "the result of the molecular forces of the protoplasm which displays it" — shocked the audience, though that was nothing compared to the uproar when it was published in the Fortnightly Review for February 1869. John Morley, the editor, said "No article that had appeared in any periodical for a generation had caused such a sensation".[108] The issue was reprinted seven times and protoplasm became a household word; Punch added 'Professor Protoplasm' to his other soubriquets.

The topic had been stimulated by Huxley seeing the cytoplasmic streaming in plant cells, which is indeed a sensational sight. For these audiences Huxley's claim that this activity should not be explained by words such as vitality, but by the working of its constituent chemicals, was surprising and shocking. Today we would perhaps emphasise the extraordinary structural arrangement of those chemicals as the key to understanding what cells do, but little of that was known in the nineteenth century.

When the Archbishop of York thought this 'new philosophy' was based on Auguste Comte's positivism, Huxley corrected him: "Comte's philosophy [is just] Catholicism minus Christianity" (Huxley 1893 vol 1 of Collected Essays Methods & Results 156). A later version was "[positivism is] sheer Popery with M. Comte in the chair of St Peter, and with the names of the saints changed". (lecture on The scientific aspects of positivism Huxley 1870 Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews p149). Huxley's dismissal of positivism damaged it so severely that Comte's ideas withered in Britain.

Huxley and the humanities

During his life, and especially in the last ten years after retirement, Huxley wrote on many issues relating to the humanities.[109][110][111][112]

Perhaps the best known of these topics is evolution and ethics, which deals with the question of whether biology has anything particular to say about moral philosophy. Both Huxley and his grandson Julian Huxley gave Romanes Lectures on this theme.[113][114][115] For a start, Huxley dismisses religion as a source of moral authority (as did Matthew Arnold). Next, he believes the mental characteristics of man are as much a product of evolution as the physical aspects. Thus, our emotions, our intellect, our tendency to prefer living in groups and spend resources on raising our young are part and parcel of our evolution, and therefore inherited.

Despite this, the details of our values and ethics are not inherited: they are partly determined by our culture, and partly chosen by ourselves. Morality and duty are often at war with natural instincts; ethics cannot be derived from the struggle for existence. It is therefore our responsibility to make ethical choices (see Ethics and Evolutionary ethics). This seems to put Huxley as a compatibilist in the Free Will vs Determinism debate. In this argument Huxley is diametrically opposed to his old friend Herbert Spencer.

"Of moral purpose I see not a trace in nature. That is an article of exclusively human manufacture." letter THH to W. Platt Ball.[116]

Huxley's dissection of Rousseau's views on man and society is another example of his later work. The essay undermines Rousseau's ideas on man as a preliminary to undermining his ideas on the ownership of property. Characteristic is:

"The doctrine that all men are, in any sense, or have been, at any time, free and equal, is an utterly baseless fiction." [117]

Huxley's method of argumentation (his strategy and tactics of persuasion in speech and print) is itself much studied.[118] His career included controversial debates with scientists, clerics and politicians; persuasive discussions with Royal Commissions and other public bodies; lectures and articles for the general public, and a mass of detailed letter-writing to friends and other correspondents. A large number of textbooks have excerpted his prose for anthologies.[119]

Royal and other commissions

Huxley worked on ten Royal and other commissions (titles somewhat shortened here).[120] The Royal Commission is the senior investigative forum in the British constitution. A rough analysis shows that five commissions involved science and scientific education; three involved medicine and three involved fisheries. Several involve difficult ethical and legal issues. All deal with possible changes to law and/or administrative practice.

Royal Commissions

  • 1862 Trawling for herrings on the coast of Scotland.
  • 1863–65 Sea fisheries of the United Kingdom.
  • 1870–71 The Contagious Diseases Acts.
  • 1870–75 Scientific instruction and the advancement of science.
  • 1876 The practice of subjugating live animals to scientific experiments (vivisection).
  • 1876–78 The universities of Scotland.
  • 1881–82 The Medical Acts. [i.e. the legal framework for medicine]
  • 1884 Trawl, net and beam trawl fishing.

Other commissions

  • 1866 On the Royal College of Science for Ireland.
  • 1868 On science and art instruction in Ireland.


Pencil drawing of Huxley by his daughter, Marion
Huxley with his grandson Julian in 1893
Marion (Mady) Huxley, by her husband John Collier

In 1855, he married Henrietta Anne Heathorn (1825–1915), an English émigrée whom he had met in Sydney. They kept correspondence until he was able to send for her. They had five daughters and three sons:

  • Noel Huxley (1856–60), died aged 4.
  • Jessie Oriana Huxley (1856–1927), married architect Fred Waller in 1877.
  • Marian Huxley (1859–87), married artist John Collier in 1879.
  • Leonard Huxley, (1860–1933) author.
  • Rachel Huxley (1862–1934) married civil engineer Alfred Eckersley in 1884; he died 1895.
  • Henrietta (Nettie) Huxley (1863–1940), married Harold Roller, travelled Europe as a singer.
  • Henry Huxley (1865–1946), became a fashionable general practitioner in London.
  • Ethel Huxley (1866–1941), married artist John Collier (widower of sister) in 1889.

Huxley's relationship with his relatives and children were genial by the standards of the day—so long as they lived their lives in an honourable manner, which some did not. After his mother, his eldest sister Lizzie was the most important person in his life until his own marriage. He remained on good terms with his children, more than can be said of many Victorian fathers. This excerpt from a letter to Jessie, his eldest daughter is full of affection:

  • "Dearest Jess, You are a badly used young person—you are; and nothing short of that conviction would get a letter out of your still worse used Pater, the bête noir of whose existence is letter-writing. Catch me discussing the Afghan question with you, you little pepper-pot! No, not if I know it..." [goes on nevertheless to give strong opinions of the Afghans, at that time causing plenty of trouble to the Indian Empire—see Second Anglo-Afghan War] "There, you plague—ever your affec. Daddy, THH." (letter Dec 7th 1878, Huxley L 1900)

Huxley's descendents include children of Leonard Huxley:

Other significant descendents of Huxley, such as Sir Crispin Tickell, are treated in the Huxley family.

Mental problems in the family

Biographers have sometimes noted the occurrence of mental illness in the Huxley family. His father became "sunk in worse than childish imbecility of mind",[121] and later died in Barming Asylum; brother George suffered from "extreme mental anxiety"[122] and died in 1863 leaving serious debts. Brother James was at 55 "as near mad as any sane man can be";[123] and there is more. His favourite daughter, the artistically talented Mady (Marion), who became the first wife of artist John Collier, was troubled by mental illness for years. She died of pneumonia in her mid-twenties.[124][125]

About Huxley himself we have a more complete record. As a young apprentice to a medical practitioner, aged thirteen or fourteen, Huxley was taken to watch a post-mortem dissection. Afterwards he sank into a 'deep lethargy' and though Huxley ascribed this to dissection poisoning, Bibby[126] and others may be right to suspect that emotional shock precipitated the depression. Huxley recuperated on a farm, looking thin and ill.

The next episode we know of in Huxley's life when he suffered a debilitating depression was on the third voyage of HMS Rattlesnake in 1848.[127] Huxley had further periods of depression at the end of 1871,[128] and again in 1873.[129] Finally, in 1884 he sank into another depression, and this time it precipitated his decision to retire in 1885, at the age of only 60.[130] This is enough to indicate the way depression (or perhaps a moderate bi-polar disorder) interfered with his life, yet unlike some of the other family members, he was able to function extremely well at other times.

The problems continued sporadically into the third generation. Two of Leonard's sons suffered serious depression: Trevennen committed suicide in 1914 and Julian suffered a breakdown in 1913,[131] and five more later in life.


Huxley (right) and Richard Owen inspect a "water baby" in Edward Linley Sambourne's 1881 illustration

Darwin's ideas and Huxley's controversies gave rise to many cartoons and satires. It was the debate about man's place in nature that roused such widespread comment: cartoons are so numerous as to be almost impossible to count; Darwin's head on a monkey's body is one of the visual clichés of the age. Three or four items of especial ripeness are:

  • Monkeyana (Punch vol 40, 18 May 1861). Signed 'Gorilla', this turned out to be by Sir Philip Egerton MP, amateur naturalist, fossil fish collector and — Richard Owen's patron![132] Last two stanzas:

    Next HUXLEY replies
    That OWEN he lies
    And garbles his Latin quotation;
    That his facts are not new,
    His mistakes not a few,
    Detrimental to his reputation.

    To twice slay the slain
    By dint of the Brain
    (Thus HUXLEY concludes his review)
    Is but labour in vain,
    unproductive of gain,
    And so I shall bid you "Adieu"!

  • The Gorilla's Dilemma (Punch 1862, vol 43 p164). First two lines:

    Say am I a man or a brother,
    Or only an anthropoid ape?

  • Report of a sad case recently tried before the Lord Mayor, Owen versus Huxley [133]. Lord Mayor asks whether either side is known to the police:

    Policeman X — Huxley, your Worship, I take to be a young hand, but very vicious; but Owen I have seen before. He got into trouble with an old bone man, called Mantell, who never could be off complaining as Owen prigged his bones. People did say that the old man never got over it, and Owen worritted him to death; but I don't think it was so bad as that. Hears as Owen takes the chair at a crib in Bloomsbury. I don't think it will be a harmonic meeting altogether. And Huxley hangs out in Jermyn Street.

    (Tom Huxley's 'low set' included Hooker 'in the green and vegetable line' and 'Charlie Darwin, the pigeon-fancier'; Owen's 'crib in Bloomsbury' was the British Museum, of which Natural History was but one department.)
  • The Water Babies, a fairy tale for a land baby by Charles Kingsley (serialised in Macmillan's Magazine 1862–63, published in book form, with additions, in 1863). Kingsley had been among first to give a favourable review to Darwin's On the Origin of Species, having "long since... learnt to disbelieve the dogma of the permanence of species",[134] and the story includes a satire on the reaction to Darwin's theory, with the main scientific participants appearing, including Richard Owen and Huxley. In 1892 Thomas Henry Huxley's five-year-old grandson Julian saw the illustration by Edward Linley Sambourne (right) and wrote his grandfather a letter asking:

    Dear Grandpater – Have you seen a Waterbaby? Did you put it in a bottle? Did it wonder if it could get out? Could I see it some day? – Your loving Julian.

    Huxley wrote back:

    My dear Julian – I could never make sure about that Water Baby... My friend who wrote the story of the Water Baby was a very kind man and very clever. Perhaps he thought I could see as much in the water as he did – There are some people who see a great deal and some who see very little in the same things.

    When you grow up I dare say you will be one of the great-deal seers, and see things more wonderful than the Water Babies where other folks can see nothing.


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online 2006
  2. ^ Huxley T.H. 1889. Agnosticism: a rejoinder. In Collected Essays vol 5 Science and Christian tradition. Macmillan, London.
  3. ^ Poulton E.B. 1909. Charles Darwin and the origin of species. London.
  4. ^ Bibby, amongst others, queried this account, which owes its origin to Leonard Huxley's biography (1900). Bibby, Cyril 1959. T.H. Huxley: scientist, humanist and educator. Watts, London. p3-4
  5. ^ a b c Desmond 1994
  6. ^ a b c d e f Huxley 1900
  7. ^ Chesney, Kellow 1970. The Victorian underworld. Temple Smith, London; Pelican 1972, p105 and p421.
  8. ^ The cut-price anatomy schools and Robert Knox are well treated in Desmond's account of materialist medical dissidents of the 1820s and 30s: Desmond A. 1989. The politics of evolution: morphology, medicine and reform in radical London. Chicago.
  9. ^ Desmond 1994 p35
  10. ^ Huxley 1935
  11. ^ Di Gregorio 1984
  12. ^ Huxley 1859
  13. ^ Tyndall 1896 p7, 9, 66, 71.
  14. ^ Holland 2007 p153–5
  15. ^ a b Foster & Lankester 1898-1903
  16. ^ MacGillivray 1852
  17. ^ Desmond 1997 p230
  18. ^ a b Bibby 1959
  19. ^ Desmond & 1997 Huxley in perspective p235
  20. ^ Bibby 1972
  21. ^ Desmond 1998 p431
  22. ^ Desmond & Moore 1991
  23. ^ a b Desmond 1997
  24. ^ Lyons 1999 p11
  25. ^ Desmond A. 1982. Archetypes and ancestors: palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875. Muller, London.
  26. ^ Clack 2002
  27. ^ Huxley 1861 p67–84
  28. ^ Foster & Lankester 1898-1903 p163–187
  29. ^ Paul 2002 p171–224
  30. ^ Prum 2003 p550–561
  31. ^ Desmond 1997 p88
  32. ^ Huxley 1877
  33. ^ Huxley 1854 p425–439
  34. ^ Huxley 1855 p82–85
  35. ^ Browne 1995
  36. ^ Desmond 1994 p222
  37. ^ a b Browne 2002
  38. ^ Darwin & Wallace 1858
  39. ^ Huxley 1900 vol 1, p189
  40. ^ Huxley 1893-94a p1–20
  41. ^ Foster & Lankester 1898-1903 p400
  42. ^ Owen 1860
  43. ^ Wilberforce 1860
  44. ^ Darwin, Francis (ed) 1887. The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Murray, London, volume 2.
  45. ^ A more complete version is available in Wikiquote
  46. ^ Jensen, J. Vernon 1991. Thomas Henry Huxley: communicating for science. U. of Delaware Press, Newark. p209, note 67
  47. ^ Desmond & Moore 1991 p493
  48. ^ Wollaston AFR 1921. Life of Alfred Newton: late Professor of Comparative Anatomy, Cambridge University 1866-1907, with a Preface by Sir Archibald Geikie OM. Dutton, NY. p118–120
  49. ^ Jensen, J. Vernon 1991. Thomas Henry Huxley: communicating for science. U. of Delaware Press, Newark. [Chapter 3 is an excellent survey, and its notes gives references to all the eyewitness accounts except Newton: see notes 61, 66, 67, 78, 79, 80, 81, 84, 86, 87, 89, 90, 93, 95: p208-211]
  50. ^ Huxley to Dr FD Dyster, 9th September 1860, Huxley Papers 15.117.
  51. ^ Browne 2002 p118
  52. ^ Huxley 1900 Chapter 14
  53. ^ Desmond 1994 p276–281
  54. ^ Lucas 1979 p313–330. A pro-Wilberforce account; lists many sources, but not Alfred Newton's letter to his brother. Many of Lucas' points are treated adversely in Jensen 1991, for example, note 77, p209.
  55. ^ Gould 1991 Chapter 26 'Knight takes Bishop?' is Gould's take on the Huxley-Wilberforce debate.
  56. ^ Darwin F. (ed) 1897-99. Life and letters of Charles Darwin. 2 vols, Murray, London. I, 156-7 Darwin to Huxley: "It is of enormous importance the showing the world that a few first-rate men are not afraid of expressing their opinion."
  57. ^ Darwin F. and A.C.Seward (eds) 1903. More letters of Charles Darwin. 2 vols, Murray, London. II, 204 Leonard Huxley: "The importance... lay in the open resistance that was made to authority".
  58. ^ Jensen, J. Vernon 1991. Thomas Henry Huxley: communicating for science. U. of Delaware Press, Newark. p83-6
  59. ^ Foster & Lankester 1898-1903 p538–606
  60. ^ Huxley 1862b
  61. ^ Darwin 1859, p490
  62. ^ Owen 1858 p1–37
  63. ^ Burkhardt 1984 onwards (continuing series)
  64. ^ Cosans 2009 p109–111
  65. ^ For the full text of the addendum see s:The cerebral structure of man and apes
  66. ^ Athenaeum September 21, 1861 p498. [key sentence italicised]
  67. ^ Huxley 1862a p420–422
  68. ^ Huxley 1870. On the geographical distribution of the chief modifications of Mankind. Journal of the Ethnological Society of London. [1]
  69. ^ Behar, Doran M., Richard Villems et al. 2008. The dawn of human matrilineal diversity. Am J. Human Genetics 82, 1130-1140.
  70. ^ Balaresque P.L., Ballereau S.J. and Jobling M.A. 2007. Challenges in human genetic diversity: demographic history and adaptation. Human molecular genetics 16 (R2), R134-9.
  71. ^ Jobling M.A., Hurles M.E. & Tylor-Smith C. 2004. Human evolutionary genetics: origins, peoples and disease. Garland, N.Y.
  72. ^ Variously worded in Huxley 1860a, Huxley 1860b, Huxley 1861, Huxley 1862b and Huxley1887
  73. ^ Poulton 1896 chapter 18 gives detailed quotations from Huxley and discussion—Darwin's letters to Huxley being not yet published
  74. ^ Letters CD to THH in Darwin & Seward 1903 vol 1 p137–8, 225–6, 230-2, 274, 277, 287
  75. ^ Cronin 1991 p397
  76. ^ Mayr 1982
  77. ^ Huxley 1857 p241
  78. ^ Tyndall 1896 p338–339, 359, 379–383, 406. "During the summer of 1857 he carefully experimented with coloured liquids on the Mer de Glace and its tributaries..." Philosophical Magazine 1857, vol xiv p241
  79. ^ Tyndall 1857 p327–346
  80. ^ Jensen 1970 p63–72
  81. ^ Desmond 1994 p284, 289–290.
  82. ^ Barr 1997 p1
  83. ^ Desmond 1997 p191
  84. ^ Irvine 1955 Chapter 15
  85. ^ Desmond 1997 p123
  86. ^ Osborn 1924
  87. ^ Desmond 1997 p14, 60
  88. ^ Charles Darwin to Asa Gray 1860 in Darwin & Seward 1903 p153
  89. ^ Lester 1995 p67
  90. ^ Wollaston 1921 p102
  91. ^ MacBride 1934 p65
  92. ^ Ruse 1997
  93. ^ Desmond 1997 p273, note 20
  94. ^ Desmond 1997 p19–20
  95. ^ On a Piece of Chalk (1868)
  96. ^ Said of those who wished to abolish all religious teaching, when really all they wanted was to free education from the Church. THH 1873. Critiques and Addresses p90
  97. ^ Huxley 1893-94b p397
  98. ^ Bibby 1959 p153
  99. ^ School Board Chronicle vol 2, p326
  100. ^ a b Bibby 1959 p155
  101. ^ Mayr 1982 p80
  102. ^ School Board Chronicle vol 2, p.360
  103. ^ White 2003 p69
  104. ^ Note: articles are listed, and some are available, in The Huxley File at Clark University
  105. ^ Bibby 1959 p33
  106. ^ Desmond 1994 p361–362
  107. ^ Desmond 1994 Chapter 19
  108. ^ Morley 1917 p90
  109. ^ Barr 1997
  110. ^ Paradis, James G. T.H. Huxley: Man's place in nature. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 1978.
  111. ^ Peterson, Houston 1932. Huxley: prophet of science. Longmans Green, London.
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  113. ^ Huxley T.H. and Huxley J. 1947. Evolution and ethics 1893-1943. Pilot, London. In USA as Touchstone for ethics, Harper, N.Y. [includes text from the Romanes lectures of both T.H. Huxley and Julian Huxley]
  114. ^ Paradis, James & Williams, George C 1989. Evolution and Ethics: T.H. Huxley's 'Evolution and Ethics', with new essays on its Victorian and sociobiological context. Princeton, N.J.
  115. ^ Reed J.R. 'Huxley and the question of morality'. In Barr 1997
  116. ^ Huxley 1900 vol 2, p285
  117. ^ Huxley T.H. 1890. The natural inequality of man. Nineteenth Century January; reprinted in Collected Essays vol 1, p290–335
  118. ^ Jensen 1991
  119. ^ Jensen 1991, p196
  120. ^ Huxley 1900
  121. ^ letter THH to eldest sister Lizzie 1853 HP 31.21
  122. ^ THH to Lizzie 1858 HP 31.24
  123. ^ THH to Lizzie HP 31.44
  124. ^ THH to JT 1887 HP 9.164
  125. ^ Desmond 1997 p175–176
  126. ^ Bibby 1972 p7
  127. ^ Huxley 1935 Chapter 5 'Wanderings of a human soul'
  128. ^ Desmond 1997 p27
  129. ^ Desmond 1997 p49
  130. ^ Desmond 1997 p151
  131. ^ Clark 1968
  132. ^ Desmond 1994 p296
  133. ^ pamphlet, published by George Pycraft, London 1863; Huxley Papers 79.6
  134. ^ Darwin 1887 287


  • Encyclopædia Britannica Online (2006), Thomas Henry Huxley, 
  • Barr, Alan P, ed. (1997), Thomas Henry Huxley's place in science and letters: centenary essays, Georgia: Athens 
  • Bibby, Cyril (1959), T.H. Huxley: scientist, humanist and educator, London: Watts 
  • Bibby, Cyril (1972), Scientist Extraordinary: the life and work of Thomas Henry Huxley 1825–1895, Oxford: Pergamon 
  • Browne, Janet (1995), Charles Darwin. vol 1: Voyaging, Cambridge University Press 
  • Browne, Janet (2002), Charles Darwin. vol 2: The Power of Place, Cambridge University Press 
  • Burkhardt, F et al. (eds) (1984 onwards: continuing series), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Cambridge University Press 
  • Clack, Jenny (2002), Gaining ground: the origin of tetrapods, Indiana 
  • Clark, Ronald W. (1968), The Huxleys, London 
  • Cosans, Christopher (2009), Owen's Ape and Darwin's Bulldog: beyond Darwinism and Creationism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press 
  • Cronin, Helena (1991), The ant and the peacock: altruism and sexual selection from Darwin to today, Cambridge University Press 
  • Darwin, Charles (1887), Darwin, Francis, ed., The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter, 2, London: John Murray, 
  • Darwin, Charles; Wallace, Alfred Russel, written at London, "On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection", Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. Zoology 3 (9): (Read 1 July): 45–62, 1858 
  • Darwin, Francis; Seward, A.C. (1903), More Letters of Charles Darwin. 2 vols, London: John Murray 
  • Desmond, Adrian (1994), Huxley: vol 1 The Devil's Disciple, London: Michael Joseph, ISBN 0-7181-3641-1 
  • Desmond, Adrian (1997), Huxley: vol 2 Evolution's high priest, London: Michael Joseph 
  • Desmond, Adrian (1998), Huxley: vol 1 and 2, London: Penguin 
  • Desmond, Adrian; Moore, James (1991), Darwin, London: Joseph 
  • Di Gregorio, Mario A (1984), T.H. Huxley's place in natural science, New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 0300030622 
  • Duncan, David (1908), Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer. 2 vols, Michael Joseph 
  • Eve, A.S.; Creasey, C.H. (1945), Life and work of John Tyndall, London: Macmillan 
  • Foster, Michael; Lankester, E. Ray (2007), The scientific memoirs of Thomas Henry Huxley. 4 vols and supplement, London: Macmillan (published 1898-1903), ISBN 1432640119 
  • Galton, Francis (1892), Hereditary Genius 2nd ed, London, pp. xix 
  • Gould, Stephen Jay (1991), Bully for Brontosaurus, Random House 
  • Holland, Linda Z (2007), "A chordate with a difference", Nature (UK: Nature Publishing Group) 447 (447/7141, pp. 153-155): 153, doi:10.1038/447153a, ISSN 0028-0836 
  • Huxley, Julian (1935), T.H. Huxley's diary of the voyage of HMS Rattlesnake, London: Chatto & Windus 
  • Huxley, Leonard (1900), The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley. 2 vols 8vo, London: Macmillan 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1854), "Review of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, tenth edition", British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review (13) 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1855), "On certain zoological arguments commonly adduced in favour of the hypothesis of the progressive development of animal life in time", Proceedings of the Royal Institution 2 (1854–58) 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1857), "untitled letter on theory of glaciers", Philosophical Magazine xiv: 241 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1859), The Oceanic Hydrozoa, London: The Ray Society, ISBN 0300030622 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1860a), "On species, and races and their origin", Proc. Roy. Inst. 1858-62 (III): 195 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1860b), "The origin of species", Westminster Review (April) 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1861), "On the zoological relations of man with the lower animals", Natural History Review (new series) (1) 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1862a), "On the fossil remains of Man", Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1858–62) (London: The Royal Institution) III 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1862b), On our knowledge of the causes of the phenomena of organic nature, London 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1863), Evidence as to Man's place in nature, London: Williams & Norwood 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1864), "Further remarks on the human remains from the Neanderthal", Natural History Review (London) (4): 429–46 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1870), Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews, London 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1877), American Addresses. 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1887), "On the reception of the 'Origin of Species'", in Darwin, Francis, Life & Letters of Charles Darwin, London: John Murray 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1893-94), Collected essays. 9 vols. Vol 1: Methods and results; vol 2: Darwiniana; vol 3: Science and education; vol 4: Science and Hebrew tradition; vol 5: Science and Christian tradition; vol 6 :Hume, with helps to the study of Berkeley; vol 7:Man's place in nature; vol 8: Discourses biological and geological; vol 9: Evolution and ethics, and other essays, London: Macmillan 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1893-94a), Collected essays: vol 2 Darwiniana, London: Macmillan 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (1893-94b), Collected essays: vol 3 Science and education, London: Macmillan 
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry (2007), "Preliminary essay upon the systematic arrangement of the fishes of the Devonian epoch.", in Foster, Michael; Lankester, E. Ray, The scientific memoirs of Thomas Henry Huxley. vol 2, London: Macmillan, 1898-1903, pp. 421–60, ISBN 1432640119 
  • Jensen, J Vernon (1970), "The X Club: fraternity of Victorian scientists", British Journal of the History of Science 5 (5): 63–72, doi:10.1017/S0007087400010621 
  • Jensen, J. Vernon (1991), Thomas Henry Huxley: communicating for science., Newark: University of Delaware 
  • Lester, Joe (1995), E. Ray Lankester:the making of modern British biology (edited, with additions, by Peter J. Bowler), BSHS Monograph #9 
  • Lucas, John R. (1979), "Wilberforce and Huxley: a legendary encounter", The Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press) 22 (2),, retrieved 2007-06-09 
  • Lyons, Sherrie L (1999), Thomas Henry Huxley: the evolution of a scientist, New York 
  • MacBride, E.W. (1934), Huxley, London: Duckworth 
  • MacGillivray, John (1852), Narrative of the voyage of HMS Rattlesnake. 2 vols, London: Boone 
  • Mackenzie, N; Mackenzie, J, eds. (1982), The diaries of Beatrice Webb vol 1 1873–1892, London: Virago 
  • Mayr, Ernst (1982), The Growth of Biological Thought, Harvard University Press 
  • McMillan, N.D.; Meehan, J (1980), John Tyndall: 'X'emplar of scientific & technological education, National Council for Educational Awards . (despite its chaotic organisation, this little book contains some nuggets that are well worth sifting)
  • Morley, John (1917), Recollections. 2 vols, Macmillan 
  • Osborn, Henry Fairfield (1924), Impressions of great naturalists 
  • Owen, Richard (1858), "On the characters, principles of division, and primary groups of the Class Mammalia", Proc Linnean Society: Zoology (2): 1–37 
  • Owen, Richard (1860), "Darwin on the Origin of Species", Edinburgh Review (111): 487–532 
  • Paradis, James; Williams, George C (1989), Evolution and Ethics: T. H. Huxley's 'Evolution and Ethics', with New Essays on Its Victorian and Sociobiological Context, Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press 
  • Paradis, James G. (1978), T.H. Huxley: Man's place in nature, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 
  • Paul, G (2002), Dinosaurs of the Air, the evolution and loss of flight in dinosaurs and birds, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, pp. 171–224, ISBN 0-8018-6763-0 
  • Peterson, Houston (1932), Huxley: prophet of science, London: Longmans, Green .
  • Poulton, Edward Bagnall (1896), Charles Darwin and the theory of natural selection, London: Cassell .(Chapter 18 deals with Huxley and natural selection)
  • Pritchard, M. (1994), A directory of London photographers 1891-1908 
  • Prum, R (2003), "Are current critiques of the theropod origin of birds science? Rebuttal To Feduccia 2002", The Auk 2 (120): 550–561, doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2003)120[0550:ACCOTT2.0.CO;2] 
  • Ruse, Michael (1997), "Thomas Henry Huxley and the status of evolution as science", in Barr, Alan P., Thomas Henry Huxley's place in science and letters: centenary essays, Georgia: Athens 
  • Spencer, Herbert (1904), Autobiography. 2 vols, London: Williams & Norgate 
  • Tyndall, John; Huxley, Thomas Henry (1857), "On the Structure and Motion of Glaciers", Philosophical Transactions 147: 327–346, doi:10.1098/rstl.1857.0016 
  • Tyndall, John (1896), The Glaciers of the Alps (Original edition 1860 ed.), Longmans, Green and Co., 
  • Webb, Beatrice (1926), My apprenticeship, London: Longmans 
  • Wilberforce, Samuel (1860), "Darwin's Origin of Species", Quarterly Review (102): 225–64 
  • Wollaston, A.F.R. (1921), Life of Alfred Newton 1829–1907 
  • White, Paul (2003), Thomas Huxley: making the 'Man of Science', Cambridge University Press 

Other biographies of Huxley

Huxley's grave
  • Ashforth, Albert. Thomas Henry Huxley. Twayne, New York 1969.
  • Ayres, Clarence. Huxley. Norton, New York 1932.
  • Clodd, Edward. Thomas Henry Huxley. Blackwood, Edinburgh 1902.
  • Huxley, Leonard. Thomas Henry Huxley: a character sketch. Watts, London 1920.
  • Irvine, William. Apes, Angels and Victorians. New York 1955.
  • Irvine, William. Thomas Henry Huxley. Longmans, London 1960.
  • Mitchell, P. Chalmers. Thomas Henry Huxley: a sketch of his life and work London 1901. Available at Project Gutenberg.
  • Voorhees, Irving Wilson. The teachings of Thomas Henry Huxley. Broadway, New York 1907.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
George Newport
Royal Medal
Succeeded by
Charles Darwin
Preceded by
L-G de Koninck
Wollaston Medal
Succeeded by
Robert Mallet
Preceded by
George Bentham
Clarke Medal
Succeeded by
Frederick McCoy
Preceded by
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Copley Medal
Succeeded by
George Salmon
Preceded by
Alphonse de Candolle
Linnaean Medal
Succeeded by
Jean-Baptiste Bornet
Preceded by
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Darwin Medal
Succeeded by
Giovanni Grassi


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Thomas Henry Huxley article)

From Wikiquote

I am too much of a sceptic to deny the possibility of anything... but I don't see my way to your conclusion.

Thomas Henry Huxley (4 May 1825 - 29 June 1895) was a British biologist. A prominent defender of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, he was the grandfather of Julian, Aldous and Andrew Huxley. He was a critic of organised religion and devised the words "agnostic" and "agnosticism" to describe his own views.



I cannot but think that he who finds a certain proportion of pain and evil inseparably woven up in the life of the very worms, will bear his own share with more courage and submission.
I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth.
Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.
If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?
The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.
The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.
The only freedom I care about is the freedom to do right; the freedom to do wrong I am ready to part with on the cheapest terms to any one who will take it of me.
In an ideal University, as I conceive it, a man should be able to obtain instruction in all forms of knowledge, and discipline in the use of all the methods by which knowledge is obtained.

File:Robot Arm Over Earth with Sunburst - GPN-2000-001097.jpgThe great end of life is not knowledge but action.

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.
Not far from the invention of fire... we must rank the invention of doubt.
  • I cannot but think that he who finds a certain proportion of pain and evil inseparably woven up in the life of the very worms, will bear his own share with more courage and submission; and will, at any rate, view with suspicion those weakly amiable theories of the Divine government, which would have us believe pain to be an oversight and a mistake, — to be corrected by and by. On the other hand, the predominance of happiness among living things — their lavish beauty — the secret and wonderful harmony which pervades them all, from the highest to the lowest, are equally striking refutations of that modern Manichean doctrine, which exhibits the world as a slave-mill, worked with many tears, for mere utilitarian ends.
    There is yet another way in which natural history may, I am convinced, take a profound hold upon practical life, — and that is, by its influence over our finer feelings, as the greatest of all sources of that pleasure which is derivable from beauty.
  • To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.
    • "On the Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences" (1854)
  • A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there was an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man — a man of restless and versatile intellect — who not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them with aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.
    • One account of his famous response to Samuel Wilberforce, who during a debate had sarcastically questioned: "whether he was descended from an ape on his grandmother's side or his grandfather's" (30 June 1860), as quoted in Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley F.R.S (1900) edited by Leonard Huxley. There were no precise transcripts of this exchange made at the time, but only various accounts which were made afterwards, in the journals and memoirs of others. Other accounts assert that after Wilberforce's query he declared to Sir Benjamin Brodie "The Lord hath delivered him into my hands" rose from his seat, gave a thorough defense of Darwin's theories, and at the end concluded: "I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth."
    • If the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who employs these faculties and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape.
      • Response, as quoted in Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977) by Alan L. Mackay.
    • The Bishop rose, and in a light scoffing tone, florid and he assured us there was nothing in the idea of evolution; rock-pigeons were what rock-pigeons had always been. Then, turning to his antagonist with a smiling insolence, he begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey? On this Mr Huxley slowly and deliberately arose. A slight tall figure stern and pale, very quiet and very grave, he stood before us, and spoke those tremendous words — words which no one seems sure of now, nor I think, could remember just after they were spoken, for their meaning took away our breath, though it left us in no doubt as to what it was. He was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth. No one doubted his meaning and the effect was tremendous. One lady fainted and had to carried out: I, for one, jumped out of my seat; and when in the evening we met at Dr Daubeney's, every one was eager to congratulate the hero of the day.
      • Another account, by Mrs. Isabella Sidgwick in "A Grandmother's Tales"; Macmillan's Magazine LXXVIII, No. 468 (October 1898)
  • Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.
    • One of a series of exchanges when Richard Owen repeated generally repudiated claims about the Gorilla brain in a Royal Institution lecture. Athenaeum (13 April 1861) p.498; Browne Vol 2, p.159
  • The fact is he made a prodigious blunder in commencing the attack, and now his only chance is to be silent and let people forget the exposure. I do not believe that in the whole history of science there is a case of any man of reputation getting himself into such a contemptible position.
  • I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel.
  • I do not mean to suggest that scientific differences should be settled by universal suffrage, but I do conceive that solid proofs must be met by something more than empty and unsupported assertions. Yet during the two years through which this preposterous controversy has dragged its weary length, Professor Owen has not ventured to bring forward a single preparation in support of his often-repeated assertions.
    The case stands thus, therefore: Not only are the statements made by me in consonance with the doctrines of the best older authorities, and with those of all recent investigators, but I am quite ready to demonstrate them on the first monkey that comes to hand; while Professor Owen's assertions are not only in diametrical opposition to both old and new authorities, but he has not produced, and, I will add, cannot produce, a single preparation which justifies them.
  • It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men; but no rational man, cognisant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man. And, if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favour, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites. The highest places in the hierarchy of civilisation will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means necessary that they should be restricted to the lowest.
    But whatever the position of stable equilibrium into which the laws of social gravitation may bring the negro, all responsibility for the result will henceforward lie between nature and him. The white man may wash his hands of it, and the Caucasian conscience be void of reproach for evermore. And this, if we look to the bottom of the matter, is the real justification for the abolition policy.
    The doctrine of equal natural rights may be an illogical delusion; emancipation may convert the slave from a well-fed animal into a pauperised man; mankind may even have to do without cotton-shirts; but all these evils must be faced if the moral law, that no human being can arbitrarily dominate over another without grievous damage to his own nature, be, as many think, as readily demonstrable by experiment as any physical truth. If this be true, no slavery can be abolished without a double emancipation, and the master will benefit by freedom more than the freed-man.
  • Let us have "sweet girl graduates" by all means. They will be none the less sweet for a little wisdom; and the "golden hair" will not curl less gracefully outside the head by reason of there being brains within.
    • "Emancipation — Black and White" (1865)
  • The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin. And it cannot be otherwise, for every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority, the cherishing of the keenest scepticism, the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith; and the most ardent votary of science holds his firmest convictions, not because the men he most venerates hold them; not because their verity is testified by portents and wonders; but because his experience teaches him that whenever he chooses to bring these convictions into contact with their primary source, Nature — whenever he thinks fit to test them by appealing to experiment and to observation — Nature will confirm them. The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.
  • The great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
  • I can assure you that there is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life. You learn that which is of inestimable importance — that there are a great many people in the world who are just as clever as you are. You learn to put your trust, by and by, in an economy and frugality of the exercise of your powers, both moral and intellectual; and you very soon find out, if you have not found it out before, that patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.
  • The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of "Spiritualism" is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a "medium" hired at a guinea a séance.
    • Review in the Daily News (17 October 1871), quoted in Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley F.R.S (1900) edited by Leonard Huxley, Vol. 1, p. 452
  • I do not advocate burning your ship to get rid of the cockroaches.
    • Said in reference to those who wished to abolish all religious teaching, rather than freeing state education from Church controls, in Critiques and Addresses (1873) p. 90.
  • In an ideal University, as I conceive it, a man should be able to obtain instruction in all forms of knowledge, and discipline in the use of all the methods by which knowledge is obtained. In such a University, the force of living example should fire the student with a noble ambition to emulate the learning of learned men, and to follow in the footsteps of the explorers of new fields of knowledge. And the very air he breathes should be charged with that enthusiasm for truth, that fanaticism of veracity, which is a greater possession than much learning; a nobler gift than the power of increasing knowledge; by so much greater and nobler than these, as the moral nature of man is greater than the intellectual; for veracity is the heart of morality.
    • Universities, Actual and Ideal (1874)
  • The man who is all morality and intellect, although he may be good and even great, is, after all, only half a man.
    • Universities, Actual and Ideal (1874)
  • Becky Sharp's acute remark that it is not difficult to be virtuous on ten thousand a year, has its application to nations; and it is futile to expect a hungry and squalid population to be anything but violent and gross.
  • Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and, however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.
  • The great end of life is not knowledge but action.
    • "Technical Education" (1877)
  • The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage. If knowledge is real and genuine, I do not believe that it is other than a very valuable possession, however infinitesimal its quantity may be. Indeed, if a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?
  • History warns us, however, that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of the 'Origin of Species' with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, rejected them. Against any such a consummation let us all devoutly pray; for the scientific spirit is of more value than its products, and irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.
  • The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me to be purely factitious — fabricated, on the one hand, by short-sighted religious people who confound a certain branch of science, theology, with religion; and, on the other, by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension; and that, outside the boundaries of that province, they must be content with imagination, with hope, and with ignorance.
  • I am too much of a sceptic to deny the possibility of anything — especially as I am now so much occupied with theology — but I don't see my way to your conclusion.
    • Letter to Herbert Spencer (22 March 1886) This is often quoted with a variant spelling as: I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything.
  • The foundation of morality is to have done, once and for all, with lying; to give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence, and repeating unintelligible propositions about things beyond the possibilities of knowledge.
  • Missionaries, whether of philosophy or of religion, rarely make rapid way, unless their preachings fall in with the prepossessions of the multitude of shallow thinkers, or can be made to serve as a stalking-horse for the promotion of the practical aims of the still larger multitude, who do not profess to think much, but are quite certain they want a great deal. [[

Jean-Jacques Rousseau|Rousseau]]'s writings are so admirably adapted to touch both these classes that the effect they produced, especially in France, is easily intelligible.

  • The doctrine that all men are, in any sense, or have been, at any time, free and equal, is an utterly baseless fiction.
    • "On The Natural Inequality of Men" (January 1890)
  • The mediaeval university looked backwards: it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge... The modern university looks forward: it is a factory of new knowledge.
    • Letter to E. Ray Lankester (11 April 1892) Huxley Papers, Imperial College: 30.448
  • Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest, in respect of the whole of the conditions which obtain, but of those who are ethically the best.
  • The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best - that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
  • Abram, Abraham became
    By will divine
    Let pickled Brian's name
    Be changed to Brine!
    • Poem in letter Joseph Dalton Hooker (4 December 1894) in response to hearing that Hooker's son had fallen into a salt vat. Huxley papers at Imperial College London HP 2.454.
  • I trust that I have now made amends for any ambiguity, or want of fulness, in my previous exposition of that which I hold to be the essence of the Agnostic doctrine. Henceforward, I might hope to hear no more of the assertion that we are necessarily Materialists, Idealists, Atheists, Theists, or any other ists, if experience had led me to think that the proved falsity of a statement was any guarantee against its repetition. And those who appreciate the nature of our position will see, at once, that when Ecclesiasticism declares that we ought to believe this, that, and the other, and are very wicked if we don't, it is impossible for us to give any answer but this: We have not the slightest objection to believe anything you like, if you will give us good grounds for belief; but, if you cannot, we must respectfully refuse, even if that refusal should wreck morality and insure our own damnation several times over. We are quite content to leave that to the decision of the future. The course of the past has impressed us with the firm conviction that no good ever comes of falsehood, and we feel warranted in refusing even to experiment in that direction.
  • Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.
    • A favorite comment, inscribed on his memorial at Ealing, quoted in Nature Vol. XLVI (30 October 1902), p. 658
  • For myself I say deliberately, it is better to have a millstone tied round the neck and be thrown into the sea than to share the enterprises of those to whom the world has turned, and will turn, because they minister to its weaknesses and cover up the awful realities which it shudders to look at.
  • God give me strength to face a fact though it slay me.
    • As quoted in Nature Vol. 149 (Jan-Jun) 1942 p. 291, and A Philosophy for Our Time (1954) by Bernard Mannes Baruch, p. 13
  • Not far from the invention of fire... we must rank the invention of doubt.
    • Collected Essays vol 6, viii; quoted in T. H. Huxley: Scientist, Humanist, and Educator (1950) by Cyril Bibby, p. 257

Reply to Charles Kingsley (1860)

Letter of reply to Charles Kingsley (23 September 1860), who had offered him consolation after Huxley's young son had died some days earlier
My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations.
Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.
  • My convictions, positive and negative, on all the matters of which you speak, are of long and slow growth and are firmly rooted. But the great blow which fell on me seemed to stir them to their foundation, and had I lived a couple of centuries earlier I could have fancied a devil scoffing at me and them — and asking me what profit it was to have stripped myself of the hopes and consolations of the mass of mankind? To which my only reply was and is — Oh devil! Truth is better than much profit. I have searched over the grounds of my belief, and if wife and child and name and fame were all to be lost to me one after the other as the penalty, still I will not lie.
  • I neither deny nor affirm the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing in it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it.
  • Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force, or the indestructibility of matter. Whoso clearly appreciates all that is implied in the falling of a stone can have no difficulty about any doctrine simply on account of its marvelousness But the longer I live, the more obvious it is to me that the most sacred act of a man's life is to say and to feel, 'I believe such and such to be true.' All the greatest rewards and all the heaviest penalties of existence cling about that act. The universe is one and the same throughout; and if the condition of my success in unraveling some little difficulty of anatomy or physiology is that I shall rigorously refuse to put faith in that which does not rest on sufficient evidence, I cannot believe that the great mysteries of existence will be laid open to me on other terms.... I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and hopes upon weaker convictions. I dare not if I would.
  • Science has taught... me to be careful how I adopt a view which jumps with my preconceptions, and to require stronger evidence for such belief than for one to which I was previously hostile.
    My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations.
  • Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.
  • Life cannot exist without a certain conformity to the surrounding universe — that conformity involves a certain amount of happiness in excess of pain. In short, as we live we are paid for living.
  • The absolute justice of the system of things is as clear to me as any scientific fact. The gravitation of sin to sorrow is as certain as that of the earth to the sun, and more so–for experimental proof of the fact is within reach of us all–nay, is before us all in our own lives, if we had but the eyes to see it.

A Liberal Education and Where to Find It (1868)

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The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the other woes of mankind, is wisdom.
  • For every man the world is as fresh as it was at the first day, and as full of untold novelties for him who has the eyes to see them.
  • The life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated — without haste, but without remorse.
  • Education is the instruction of the intellect in the laws of Nature, under which name I include not merely things and their forces, but men and their ways; and the fashioning of the affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in harmony with those laws. For me, education means neither more nor less than this. Anything which professes to call itself education must be tried by this standard, and if it fails to stand the test, I will not call it education, whatever may be the force of authority, or of numbers, upon the other side.
  • The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the other woes of mankind, is wisdom.

On a Piece of Chalk (1868)

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  • If a well were sunk at our feet in the midst of the city of Norwich, the diggers would very soon find themselves at work in that white substance almost too soft to be called rock, with which we are all familiar as "chalk."
  • The chalk is no unimportant element in the masonry of the earth’s crust, and it impresses a peculiar stamp, varying with the conditions to which it is exposed, on the scenery of the districts in which it occurs.
  • What is this wide-spread component of the surface of the earth? and whence did it come?
    You may think this no very hopeful inquiry. You may not unnaturally suppose that the attempt to solve such problems as these can lead to no result, save that of entangling the inquirer in vague speculations, incapable of refutation and of verification.
    If such were really the case, I should have selected some other subject than a "piece of chalk" for my discourse. But, in truth, after much deliberation, I have been unable to think of any topic which would so well enable me to lead you to see how solid is the foundation upon which some of the most startling conclusions of physical science rest.
  • A great chapter of the history of the world is written in the chalk. Few passages in the history of man can be supported by such an overwhelming mass of direct and indirect evidence as that which testifies to the truth of the fragment of the history of the globe, which I hope to enable you to read, with your own eyes, tonight.
    Let me add, that few chapters of human history have a more profound significance for ourselves. I weigh my words well when I assert, that the man who should know the true history of the bit of chalk which every carpenter carries about in his breeches-pocket, though ignorant of all other history, is likely, if he will think his knowledge out to its ultimate results, to have a truer, and therefore a better, conception of this wonderful universe, and of man’s relation to it, than the most learned student who is deep-read in the records of humanity and ignorant of those of Nature.
  • The language of the chalk is not hard to learn, not nearly so hard as Latin, if you only want to get at the broad features of the story it has to tell; and I propose that we now set to work to spell that story out together.
  • Only two suppositions seem to be open to us — Either each species of crocodile has been specially created, or it has arisen out of some pre-existing form by the operation of natural causes.
    Choose your hypothesis; I have chosen mine. I can find no warranty for believing in the distinct creation of a score of successive species of crocodiles in the course of countless ages of time.
  • A small beginning has led us to a great ending. If I were to put the bit of chalk with which we started into the hot but obscure flame of burning hydrogen, it would presently shine like the sun. It seems to me that this physical metamorphosis is no false image of what has been the result of our subjecting it to a jet of fervent, though nowise brilliant, thought to-night. It has become luminous, and its clear rays, penetrating the abyss of the remote past, have brought within our ken some stages of the evolution of the earth. And in the shifting "without haste, but without rest" of the land and sea, as in the endless variation of the forms assumed by living beings, we have observed nothing but the natural product of the forces originally possessed by the substance of the universe.

On the Reception of the Origin of Species (1887)

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The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land, to add something to the extent and the solidity of our possessions.
  • Since Lord Brougham assailed Dr Young, the world has seen no such specimen of the insolence of a shallow pretender to a Master in Science as this remarkable production, in which one of the most exact of observers, most cautious of reasoners, and most candid of expositors, of this or any other age, is held up to scorn as a "flighty" person, who endeavours "to prop up his utterly rotten fabric of guess and speculation," and whose "mode of dealing with nature" is reprobated as "utterly dishonourable to Natural Science."
    And all this high and mighty talk, which would have been indecent in one of Mr. Darwin's equals, proceeds from a writer whose want of intelligence, or of conscience, or of both, is so great, that, by way of an objection to Mr. Darwin's views, he can ask, "Is it credible that all favourable varieties of turnips are tending to become men?"; who is so ignorant of paleontology, that he can talk of the "flowers and fruits" of the plants of the Carboniferous epoch; of comparative anatomy, that he can gravely affirm the poison apparatus of the venomous snakes to be "entirely separate from the ordinary laws of animal life, and peculiar to themselves"...
    Nor does the reviewer fail to flavour this outpouring of preposterous incapacity with a little stimulation of the odium theologicum. Some inkling of the history of the conflicts between Astronomy, Geology, and Theology, leads him to keep a retreat open by the proviso that he cannot "consent to test the truth of Natural Science by the word of Revelation;" but, for all that, he devotes pages to the exposition of his conviction that Mr. Darwin's theory "contradicts the revealed relation of the creation to its Creator," and is "inconsistent with the fulness of his glory."
    If I confine my retrospect of the reception of the 'Origin of Species' to a twelvemonth, or thereabouts, from the time of its publication, I do not recollect anything quite so foolish and unmannerly as the Quarterly Review article...
    • Huxley's commentary on the Samuel Wilberforce review of the Origin of Species in the Quarterly Review'
  • My reflection when I first made myself master of the central idea of the Origin was, "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that."
  • The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land, to add something to the extent and the solidity of our possessions.

Agnosticsim (1889)

"Agnosticsim" published in The Nineteenth Century (February 1889) ; also in Christianity and Agnosticism (1889)
  • Agnosticism is not properly described as a "negative" creed, nor indeed as a creed of any kind, except in so far as it expresses absolute faith in the validity of a principle which is as much ethical as intellectual. This principle may be stated in various ways, but they all amount to this: that it is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to agnosticism. That which agnostics deny and repudiate as immoral is the contrary doctrine, that there are propositions which men ought to believe, without logically satisfactory evidence; and that reprobation ought to attach to the profession of disbelief in such inadequately supported propositions. The justification of the agnostic principle lies in the success which follows upon its application, whether in the field of natural or in that of civil history; and in the fact that, so far as these topics are concerned, no sane man thinks of denying its validity.
  • The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the individual agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as unknowable. What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I know nothing, and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by any one else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case.
  • When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis," — had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble.
    So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took.


  • The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place in which to spend one's time.
    • Sydney J. Harris, as quoted in The Routledge Dictionary of Quotations (1989) by Robert Andrews; also quoted as: "...a pleasant place in which to spend one's leisure."

Quotations about Huxley

  • Huxleyism: the theory of the anthropoid descent of man and its inevitable consequences.
  • Darwin's bulldog was patently a man of almost puritanical uprightness.
    • Cyril Bibby in 'T.H. Huxley: Scientist, Humanist and Educator (1959) p. 56
  • It was worth being born to have known Huxley.
    • Edward Clodd, biologist and biographer in Memories (1916), p. 40
  • My good and kind agent for the propagation of the Gospel; i.e. the Devil's gospel.
    • This humorous remark closes a letter by Charles Darwin, to Huxley (8 August 1860), but it can also be interpreted as referring to Louis Agassiz, rather than Huxley himself.
  • "Pope Huxley"
    • Richard Holt Hutton in the title of an article in which he accuses Huxley of too great a degree of certitude in some of his arguments. The Spectator (29 January 1870)
  • Huxley, I believe, was the greatest Englishman of the Nineteenth Century — perhaps the greatest Englishman of all time.
    • H. L. Mencken in "Thomas Henry Huxley" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925)
  • All of us owe a vast debt to Huxley, especially all of us of English speech, for it was he, more than any other man, who worked that great change in human thought which marked the Nineteenth Century.
    • H. L. Mencken in "Thomas Henry Huxley" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925)
  • The row was over Darwinism, but before it ended Darwinism was almost forgotten. What Huxley fought for was something far greater: the right of civilized men to think freely and speak freely, without asking leave of authority, clerical or lay. How new that right is! And yet how firmly held! Today it would be hard to imagine living without it. No man of self-respect, when he has a thought to utter, pauses to wonder what the bishops will have to say about it. The views of bishops are simply ignored. Yet only sixty years ago they were still so powerful that they gave Huxley the battle of his life.
    • H. L. Mencken in "Thomas Henry Huxley" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925)
  • From [1854] until 1885 Huxley's labours extended over the widest field of biology and philosophy ever covered by any naturalist with the single exception of Aristotle.
  • Huxley gave the death-blow not only to Owen's theory of the skull but also to Owen's hitherto unchallenged prestige.
  • The illustrious comparative anatomist, Huxley, Darwin's great general in the battles that had to be fought, but not a naturalist, far less a student of living nature.
  • A man who was always taking two irons out of the fire and putting three in.
  • The papers are printed and circulated among the members, and begin to form a little volume. Among the contributors have been Archbishop Huxley and Professor Manning.
  • I believed that he was the greatest man I was ever likely to meet, and I believe that all the more firmly today.
    • H. G. Wells in The Royal College of Science Magazine (1901)
  • If he has a fault it is... that like Caesar, he is ambitious... cutting up apes is his forté, cutting up men is his foible.
    • "A Devonshire Man" in the Pall Mall Gazette (18 January 1870)
  • I'm a good Christian woman — I'm not an infidel like you!
    • Huxley's cook Bridget, after being scolded for drunkenness, as quoted in Huxley : From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest (1997) by Adrian Desmond
  • Oh, there goes Professor Huxley; faded but still fascinating.
    • Woman overheard at Dublin meeting of the British Association of 1878, quoted in The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1900) by Leonard Huxley, p. 80
  • His voice was low, clear and distinct... Professor Huxley's method is slow, precise, and clear, and he guards the positions that he takes with astuteness and ability. He does not utter anything in reckless fashion which conviction sometimes countenances and excuses, but rather with the deliberation that research and close inquiry foster.
    • Newspaper account of speech at opening of Johns Hopkins University (13 September 1876), quoted in The Great Influenza : The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (2005) by John M. Barry, p. 13

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