Inspire A Friend—With Thomas Huxley

The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon...Thomas Huxley

People Who Kick Buts: Thomas Huxley

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The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.

  • Born on May 4 1825; passed away on June 29 1895.
  • An English biologist, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
  • Huxley’s famous 1860 debate with Samuel Wilberforce was a key moment in the wider acceptance of evolution, and in his own career. Huxley had been planning to leave Oxford on the previous day, but, after an encounter with Robert Chambers, the author of Vestiges, he changed his mind and decided to join the debate. Wilberforce was coached by Richard Owen, against whom Huxley also debated whether humans were closely related to apes.
  • His father was a mathematics teacher at Ealing School until it closed, putting the family into financial difficulties. As a result, Thomas left school at age 10, after only two years of formal schooling.

    Despite this unenviable start, Huxley was determined to educate himself. He became one of the great autodidacts of the nineteenth century. At first he read Thomas Carlyle, James Hutton’s Geology, Hamilton’s Logic. In his teens he taught himself German, eventually becoming fluent and used by Charles Darwin as a translator of scientific material in German. He learned Latin and enough Greek to read Aristotle in the original.

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