Wednesday, May 4, 2022

May 4: Thomas Henry Huxley, English biologist


Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) was an English biologist and anthropologist and one of the Huxleys, grandfather (by his son Leonard) of Julian Huxley, evolutionary biologist and the first Director of UNESCO; Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, The Perennial Philosophy, and The Doors of Perception; and Andrew Huxley, who won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the mechanisms of the nerve cell. Thomas's defense of Darwin's theory of evolution earned him the nickname "Darwin's Bulldog," and his 1860 debate with Church of England bishop Samuel Wilberforce boosted acceptance of evolution as well as Huxley's own career, though accounts of the debate may be fabricated to some degree. Although virtually self-taught, Huxley became one of the finest comparative anatomists of the later 19th century, working on (among other things) the relationship between apes and humans. He also made the bird-dinosaur connection widely accepted today. It was he who coined the term "agnosticism" and elaborated on it to frame the nature of claims in terms of what is knowable and what is not, a major contribution to the modern worldview. His works include an Autobiography and Selected Essays; Man's Place in Nature, and Other Essays; Science and Culture, and Other Essays; On the Relations of Man to the Lower Animals; and Evolution and Ethics, and Other Essays.


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