Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

"Darwin's bulldog"; a quick convert to Darwin's evolutionism who became the theory's most important advocate during the next two decades. A tireless lecturer, educator, and popular writer who was largely responsible for professionalizing science in Britain. He feuded with Owen even before the Origin, especially on the anatomical relationships of men and apes; his famous debate with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce at the 1860 meeting of the BAAS followed from this dispute. Ironically, his support for the selection theory was tenuous, and he only became interested in building trees and showing evolutionary sequences after reading Haeckel's Generelle Morphologie. Despite this and being a personal friend of Herbert Spencer, he later opposed that thinker's Lamarckian, laissez faire social theories. During the voyage of the Rattlesnake he conducted studies of jellyfish showing that they were unrelated to the echinoderms, which began his campaign to dismantle Cuvier's four embranchements (especially the "Radiata"). Later, he turned to vertebrate paleontology, studying fossil hominids and living apes, discovering the descent of birds from dinosaurs, and expounding on the fossil horse sequence as proof of evolution, first using V. Kowalevsky's phylogeny and then switching to O. Marsh's. He coined and popularized the term "agnosticism" and spent his last years debating political, philosophical, and theological issues. Founder of the X-Club, an influential scientific cabal that included Hooker, Spencer, and the physicist John Tyndall.


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