Thomas Henry Huxley, 1825-1895

[Mentioned in the Message to The Mother Church for 1901, p. 24]

Huxley , like Darwin, began his scientific investigations on one of Her Majesty's ships. Too young to qualify for the College of Surgeons when he received the Bachelor of Medicine degree, he applied for medical service in the Navy. After hospital service he was assigned as assistant surgeon to the "Rattlesnake," which cruised in Australian waters for 3 years, collecting specimens for the British Museum and gathering geographical and geological information. Having had very little schooling, he acquired on this voyage, by diligent reading, a vast literary knowledge.

Huxley was allowed 3 years by the Navy to work on his observations and drawings prior to having them published. When his request for further time was refused, he resigned. Having already been made a Fellow of the Royal Society and having won its medal in physiology, he now received a grant from this Society to continue his work. This same year he was made lecturer at the Government School of Mines. When Darwin's "Origin of the Species" was published, Huxley became its champion. This brought him into conflict with many church leaders and led to his labeling himself an agnostic, a term he invented "as," he said, "suggestively antithetic to the 'gnostic' of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant." Although his passion for truthfulness made him unwilling to accept anything unverifiable, he loved metaphysical discussions. As a boy he had asked, What would become of things if their qualities were removed?

Signs of the Times
January 28, 1956

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