Essays: English and American. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Thomas Henry Huxley
THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY (182595) was born at Ealing, near London, and, having studied medicine, went to sea as assistant surgeon in the navy. After leaving the Government service, he became Professor of Natural History at the Royal School of Mines, and Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution, and later held many commissions and received many distinctions in the scientific world. His special field was morphology, and in it he produced a large number of monographs and several comprehensive manuals.
It is not, however, by his original contributions to knowledge that Huxleys name is best known to readers outside of technical science, but rather by his labors in popularization and in polemics. He was one of the foremost and most effective champions of Darwinism, and no scientist has been more conspicuous in the battle between the doctrine of evolution and the older religious orthodoxy. Outside of this particular issue, he was a vigorous opponent of supernaturalism in all its forms, and a supporter of the agnosticism which demands that nothing shall be believed with greater assurance than the evidence warrantsthe evidence intended being, of course, of the same kind as that admitted in natural science.
Huxleys interests thus extended from pure science into many adjoining fields, such as those of theology, philosophy (where he wrote an admirable book of Hume), and education. Of his attitude toward this last, a clear idea may be gained from the following address on Science and Culture, a singularly forcible plea for the importance of natural science in general education.
In all his writings Huxley commands a style excellently adapted to his purpose: clear, forcible, free from mannerism, yet telling and often memorable in phrase. Whatever may be the exact magnitude of his services to pure science, he was a master in the writing of English for the purposes of exposition and controversy, and a powerful intellectual influence on almost all classes in his generation.