Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley

Excerpt

The seventh of eight children in a family rather precariously solvent, Thomas Henry Huxley was born in Ealing in 1825. He tells us that he inherited from his father--an ineffective master at Ealing School--obstinacy, a hot temper, and the ability to draw; and from his mother-- a slender brunette with immense energy and piercing black eyes--the rest of his character almost in toto , but particularly 'rapidity of thought', which together with clarity, lay at the very basis of his intelligence. Huxley had the coolness and sureness, the decision and daring which clarity and swiftness of mind bestow. In fact, one suspects that had learned Victorians been accustomed to settle their scientific and theological differences on the field of honour, Huxley would more than once have defended his doubts and convictions at twenty paces.

Huxley spent two unhappy years--from eight to ten-- at Ealing School. Then his family moved to Coventry, and he was left to educate himself. He did so by reading rapidly and incessantly on every serious subject. Hutton's Theory of the Earth and Guizot History of Civilization in Europe were among his early adventures, and like the rest of Great Britain, he discovered Carlyle. Sitting long hours in church, he developed a zeal for the evangelical virtues and an animosity against evangelical clergyman. At fifteen, he implemented that animosity by becoming, though with some anxiety, virtually an agnostic.

Passionate for clarity and structure, he wanted to become a mechanical engineer. But two of his sisters had married doctors, and he had already picked up some medical knowledge. When in 1841 his parents moved to East London, he was apprenticed first to a Dr. Chandler and then to his own . . .

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