SCIENTIST EXTRAORDINARY: The Life and Scientific Work of Thomas Henry Huxley by Cyril Bibby

SCIENTIST EXTRAORDINARY: The Life and Scientific Work of Thomas Henry Huxley

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To posterity Thomas Henry Huxley is best known as the great defender-proselytizer of Darwin's Origin of Species but, as Bibby's thoroughly charming biography of this Eminent Victorian takes pains to show, ""Darwin's bulldog"" was a remarkable scientist in his own right. Bibby includes sketches from Huxley's diaries during the H.M.S. Rattlesnake voyage which laid the groundwork for his subsequent investigations in taxonomy, paleontology and craniology, and he provides an accessible discussion of Huxley's numerous other studies ranging from dinosaurs to dogs. Withal, Huxley's gladiatorial sallies on ""The Relation of Man to the Lower Animals,"" his genial combativeness against Wilberforce and the Bishops, and his life-long efforts on behalf of scientific education for the working class receive their due. Huxley was an exuberant pugilist, a man of prodigious energies and a radical educator; despite his constant attacks on Orthodoxy 'he became a beloved elder statesman of Victorian science. One might wish that Bibby had taken the time to probe a bit more deeply into the psyche of the scientist-philosopher -- like so many of his contemporaries (including Darwin) Huxley was subject to mysterious nervous breakdowns and fevers which left him prostrate. Did the Agnosticism which he seemed to carry so lightly perhaps take a greater toll on his seemingly limitless inner resources than he knew? Bibby's is by no means an exhaustive or definitive biography. But it does provide a compelling portrait of the fierce antitranscendentalist who remained a pillar of Victorian morality while devoting his life to subverting the intellectual foundations of his age.

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 1972
Publisher: St. Martin's Press