Thomas Huxley: Making the "Man of Science"

Thomas Huxley: Making the "Man of Science"

Thomas Huxley: Making the "Man of Science"

Thomas Huxley: Making the "Man of Science"

Synopsis

This book examines the persona of the "man of science" in the Victorian period as it was shaped by Thomas Huxley, the leading British naturalist and notorious popularizer of Darwinian theory. It demonstrates how the scientific practitioner was regarded as a moral and religious figure; simultaneously considered to be the epitome of the secular, professional scientist. Breaking with traditional biographies, this fascinating portrait treats Huxley as the consummate British "man of science" and reflects on the historical significance of scientific authority.

Excerpt

In tens of thousands of poor homes, Huxley's name must be [that of] one who was the mere tool and instrument of a prevalent orthodoxy – a despotism personified.

Daylight, 13 July 1895

Chapters 3 and 4 have shown how Huxley drew on literary and religious models to shape scientific identity, and how he contended and cooperated with men of letters and clergymen in the reform of curricula in public schools and universities, and in new elementary classrooms supported and administered by the state. the public controversies in which Huxley engaged with other leading social figures took place before a variety of audiences who often had quite different notions of what science, literature, and religion should be, and who did not merely defer to learned men. Thus the meaning of the cultural practices in which such men engaged, the values that they attached to their work, and their self-definitions were in large part dependent on the views of the people whom they sought to educate. the “cultural authority” for which learned groups contended was itself in question and could be acquired only by meeting the expectations of various publics. Men of science . . .

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