T.H. Huxley

(4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895)

T H Huxley

T.H. Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley was a Victorian scientist and popularizer of Charles Darwin‘s theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.  He was colloquially known as Darwin’s Bulldog.

Huxley had an impressive career.  He sailed with the HMS Rattlesnake as the Assistant Surgeon and naturalist – much like Darwin on the HMS Beagle. Huxley also served  on 8 Royal Commissions.  He was inducted into the Royal Society and was President from 1883-1885.  His contribution to science in the 19th century is perhaps incalculable, having served so many institutions, published so many books and help foster many other young scientists.  What is most impressive is that he was an autodidact, having learned everything from German to comparative anatomy through his own study.

He is possibly most known in his role as a major supporter of Darwin, even though he may not have agreed with one Darwin’s core components of evolution – natural selection.  Huxley also took on Bishop Wilberforce in 1860 in a debate on evolution.  The debate would help Darwin’s theory gain wider acceptence, put science in a professional standing and further undermine the literalism of the Old Testament.  Huxley was an avowed agnostic, and indeed, invented the term (though its definition was quite wide ranging in the 19th century).

Huxley formed the X Club, a dining club to advance the cause of science which included many leading thinkers of the time, such as John Tyndall, Herbert Spencer and J. D. Hooker.

In 1895, Huxley died of a heart attack.  He is buried in St. Marylebone in North London. A Blue Plaque marks 38 Marlborough Place, London where Huxley lived and Imperial College London is home to a bust of him.

His grandson Julian was the first President of the British Humanist Association.

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