Biography of Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

Thomas Huxley.

Doctor and British naturalist born in Middlesex (England) on May 4, 1825 and died in Sussex on June 29, 1895.

Youngest son of a Professor of mathematics and Assistant Director of a school in Ealing, which Huxley was attended by two years, from small became interested in the study of Sciences and drawing, art that was useful later for his work in zoology. Although in the beginning he tried to study mechanical engineering, lack of media dissuaded him, and stimulated by some relatives joined in the medical career. In 1842, he was granted a scholarship in Charing Cross Hospital. Three years later he passed M.B. examination at the University of London and became a member of the Royal College of surgeons.

He joined the Royal Navy and was assigned to the ship H.M.S. Victory to serve at the Haslar hospital, although he was later transferred to H.M.S. Rattlesnake. This boat was made, as an assistant surgeon, a trip to Australia with Captain Stanley. The trip to the continent lasted four years, during which carried out relevant zoological studies, especially plankton, performed dissections on board and obtained documentation in the library of Sidney. In 1849 he went to the Royal Society a work on jellyfish, which would be the first in a series that took place on the way back from his trip, and published in the Philosophical Translations. Scientific works written between 1850 and 1854 centred nearly all about marine organisms, embryology and cytology. Meanwhile, the Royal Society admitted him as a member in 1851, giving him the Royal Medal that same year.

In 1854 he held the post of Professor of Natural History at the school of mines, succeeding Edward Forbes, and he was soon appointed to the additional post of naturalist on the Geological Survey.

With means enough and scientific recognition, decided to get married in 1855. Due to his duties as Professor, little by little is it was interesting in the study of fossil vertebrates, although this topic not attracted him much at first. As a result of this published several works envelope vertebrate and invertebrate fossils and marine. In 1855 also began a series of lectures to workers, after helping in the Organization of the Museum of practical geology. It later developed its own course in the school of mines, carrying out educational work in the Royal Institution between 1856 and 1858.

Huxley was an active Professor from 1854 until his death. In the school of mines, for example, it issued supplementary lectures with demonstrations. When this was moved in 1872 to the Royal College of Science in 1872, with laboratories and other facilities, he continued his teaching, using practical scientific methods that he considered essential for the study of the natural sciences.

In terms of their Conference workers, he considered important, because he understood that they were able to understand them if a plain, simple and clear language rather than an elaborate language used with them. He dedicated a series of conferences on the place of man in nature, and other topics related to geology.

He was supporter of a comprehensive education of a man who not only encompass the scientific field, but also the social subjects (history, geography, etc.) and the arts. In his conception included the study of the Bible, but not a focus of theological, since it was considered agnostic, but as a literary work and the magna carta of the oppressed. In fact, the term agnosticism had been created by Huxley and Darwintook it later. Shortly before appearing in public the origins of this last species, Huxley Darwin received a copy of the book, and wrote to the father of evolutionary theory, praising his work. He defended the work on several occasions, as in the Times of London in 1859 and the Royal Institution in 1860. Not only was among the first advocates of Darwinism, perhaps the most scathing of all, but that it was the increased support of evolution in England. Amused to Darwin the way in which Huxley attacked opponents of evolution of the species, as Richard Owen, Louis Agassiz and the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce; attacks that Charles considered deserved. It is autotitulaba the "buldogg of Darwin", for his outstanding advocacy of the ideas of this. She met him through the mediation of Hooker. Moreover, Darwin read, quoted and heavily used his works, including the anatomy of invertebrates.

By this time, Huxley was already recognized by English scientists and the British Association as a notable figure in the field of biology. After many discussions and publications, Huxley showed that man had to be considered zoologicamente a primate, and that the difference between man and APE was less than between apes and lower primates.

Huxley combined his teaching with the study of physical anthropology, zoology, geology, and Paleontology. Thus, in the Decade of the sixties of the 19th century it occupied major vertebrates, invertebrates, and evolution. Especially some works devoted to fossil horses, in order to reinforce the theory of evolution, and to this end he travelled to the United States in 1876, to study the fossil collections of those animals Othoniel Charles Marsh had.

He wrote several works, such as Lessons in elementary Phisiology in 1866, for scholars; Phisiography in 1877, and The Cryfish, the latter two for students; as well as a good number of works included in his Collected Essays, that deal with varied subjects, such as science education, philosophy, ethics, etc.

He also worked in the civil service, serving in real commitments, investigating problems of education, fishing and vivisection. It belonged to different scientific societies, such as the Ethnological, Geological, Methafisical and Royal Societies, the British Association (which became President), the London School Board and others. His scientific and administrative works earned him honors as the Royal, Copley and Darwin of the Royal Society medals, and the appointment of private counselor.

Thomas Henry Huxley founded a dynasty of eminent scientists, thinkers and men of letters. His son Leonard was offspring by Julian, who was a biologist; Francis, who was an eminent anthropologist; Aldous, writer, who was the famous author of a happy mute; and Andrew Fielding, an eminent physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in 1963.


BIBBY, C. T. H. Huxley: Scientist, Humanist and Educator. London, 1959.

-: Scientist extraordinary: the life and scientific works of Thomas Henry Huxley, 1825-1895. Oxford, New York: Pergamon, 1972.

Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York, Charles Scribnesds, S. a..

HUXLEY, L. Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley. London, 1900, 2 vols.

MITCHELL, P. ch. Thomas Henry Huxley. A Sketch of His Life and Work. London, 1900.

Armando García González