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Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

Chủ Nhật 18, Tháng Ba 2007

Thomas Henry Huxley was one of the intellectual giants of the nineteenth century. Largely self-taught, he rose from humble beginnings to become a celebrated biologist, teacher, and promoter of science. Of all his achievements, he is best remembered for his spirited defence of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. His staunch support has since earned him the nickname ‘Darwin’s bulldog’.

‘As for your doctrines I am prepared to go to the Stake if requisite… I am sharpening up my claws and beak in readiness’ Letter to Charles Darwin, regarding The Origin of Species

1825 Born 4 May, Ealing, London.

1837 Victoria becomes Queen.

1846 Huxley sails to Australia on HMS Rattlesnake.

1850 Huxley returns to England and is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

1854 Appointed lecturer at the School of Mines in London.

1859 Publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species .

1860 The legendary encounter between Huxley and Wilberforce takes place on 30 June.

1863 Publication of Evidence on Man’s Place in Nature.

1868 Publication of a classic essay, On a Piece of Chalk.

1869 Publication of An Introduction to the Classification of Animals

1870 Elected member of the new London School Board.

1871 Publication of A Manual of the Anatomy of Vertebrated Animals.

1877 Publication of A Manual of the Anatomy of Invertebrated Animals.

1881-85 Elected President of the Royal Society.

1892 Made Privy Councillor.

1895 Died 29 June, Eastbourne, England, after a long illness.

Huxley’s legacy

Huxley was much more than a great biologist. He pioneered a modern approach to education, encouraging science students to undertake practical work rather than relying on textbooks. He also invented the word ‘agnostic,’ using it to describe himself – a person who believes it is impossible to know whether or not God exists.

Huxley’s genius did not die with him. He founded a remarkable dynasty of scientists and thinkers including Julian Huxley, who established the World Wildlife Fund, and Aldous Huxley, a writer whose book Brave New World is still popular today.

‘Agnosticism simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that for which he has no grounds for professing to believe’

© The Natural History Museum, London 2007