Friday, May 4, 2012

Thomas Huxley, early evolutionist

Thomas Huxley
It is the birthday of English biologist Thomas Huxley (1825), one of the most vociferous advocates of the theory of evolution and the premier advocate of science in 19th century Britain. He was largely self-educated but rose to become a prominent leader in British zoology. His Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) was the first book devoted to human evolution. It makes the case that man and apes came from a common ancestor. It was published four years after Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species but Darwin was careful to avoid dealing with human evolution in that book. (Darwin dealt with the subject in The Descent of Man, published in 1871.) Much of the material in Huxley's book had been published in his scientific papers and distributed to a very selected audience. His book marked the first time such theories had received the attention of a wider educated public. Huxley compares adult human anatomy with that of apes. He makes the case that humans should be considered primates. Author Aldous Huxley was Thomas' grandson.

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