Thomas Henry Huxley

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Huxley, Thomas Henry,

1825–95, English biologist and educator, grad. Charing Cross Hospital, 1845. Huxley gave up his own biological research to become an influential scientific publicist and was the principal exponent of Darwinism in England. An agnostic (see agnosticismagnosticism
, form of skepticism that holds that the existence of God cannot be logically proved or disproved. Among prominent agnostics have been Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and T. H. Huxley (who coined the word agnostic in 1869).
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), he doubted all things not immediately open to logical analysis and scientific verification. He held up truth as an ideal and spoke and wrote frequently on its tool, the scientific method, and its yield, the evolutionary theory. He placed human ethics outside the scope of the materialistic processes of evolution; he believed that civilization is humanity's protest against nature and that progress is achieved by the human control of evolution. Huxley held numerous public offices, serving on 10 royal commissions (1862–84). His many works include Evolution and Ethics (1893), Collected Essays (9 vol., 1893–94), Scientific Memoirs (4 vol., 1898–1902), and an autobiography (1903).

Bibliography

See selected writings, ed. by C. Bibby (1967); biographies by Huxley's son Leonard (1920, repr. 1969) and C. Bibby (1972).

Huxley, Thomas Henry

 

Born May 4, 1825, in Ealing, near London; died June 29, 1895, in Eastbourne, Sussex. English naturalist; a close associate of Charles Darwin and the popularizer of his theories.

In 1846-50, Huxley participated in an expedition to the eastern shores of Australia and New Guinea. From 1854 to 1895 he was a professor at the Royal School of Mines. He served as secretary of the Royal Society from 1871 to 1880 and as its president from 1883 to 1885.

Huxley conducted research in zoology, comparative anatomy, paleontology, anthropology, and the theory of evolution. In 1849 he established the link between the Medusae family and the polyps; he developed and substantiated the thesis of the similar skull structure of vertebrates. On the basis of comparative anatomical studies of the pelvis and extremities of reptiles and birds, Huxley established their common origin and proved that birds evolved from reptiles. In his works on geology he criticized the traditional concept of the simultaneous geological origin of the earth’s surface. He introduced the concept of homotaxis, that is, of deposits of identical facies characterized by similar or identical flora or fauna but not contemporaneous. Huxley also proposed an incorrect hypothesis about the lack of progressive development in most groups of the organic world, asserting that in the course of the geological time that can be studied the overwhelming majority of animal and plant groups had not advanced appreciably toward greater organization.

After the appearance of Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859, Huxley began insistently and convincingly to demonstrate the animal origin of man. After studying and comparing a great deal of comparative anatomical data on the structure of human and ape bodies, he reached the conclusion that the anatomical differences separating man from the higher apes such as the gorilla and chimpanzee were much less than those separating the gorilla from the lower apes. Huxley vigorously defended Darwinism from clerical attacks and strove to make scientific knowledge accessible to all levels of the population.

WORKS

Life and Letters … , vols. 1-2. London, 1900.
In Russian translation:
O polozhenii cheloveka v riadu organicheskikh sushchestv. St. Petersburg, 1864.
Osnovy fiziologii. Moscow, 1899. (With I. Rosenthal.)
Prakticheskie zaniatiia po zoologii i botanike. Moscow, 1902. (With G. Martin.)
O prichinakh iavlenii v organicheskom mire, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.

REFERENCES

Davitashvili, L. S. “V. O. Kovalevskii i T. Gekslikak estestvoispytateli-evoliutsionisty.” In Tr. Instituta istorii estestvoznaniia, vol. 3. Moscow, 1949.
Bibly, C. T. H. Huxley. Leningrad, 1959. (With bibliography.)