30 June 2008

T.H.Huxley: Darwin's Bulldog.

Thanks to Greg Laden for reminding us that June 29th is the anniversary of the man who gloried in the name Darwin's Bulldog. You don't get scientific nicknames like that anymore. Huxley (4 May 1825 - 29 June 1895) is remembered for his robust championing of Darwin's work, and for his combative writing and speaking style. But his contribution to science was far greater than just being Natural Selection's PR.

He was a self-trained comparative anatomist of great ability, who proposed that birds are descended from theropod dinosaurs and in his early professional life did much work on marine invertebrates. Like Darwin, Huxley went to sea and obtained much his early scientific self-education to being on the decks of a ship. He sailed as an assistant surgeon on HMS Rattesnake (left) between 1846 and 1850, and like many who worked in the surgeon's berth it was understood that 'naturalizing' would occupying his time when not physicking the crew with the blue pill and the black draught.

His achievements and positions are too numerous to list without boring the face off you, Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing his life, although to do justice to Huxley's life does need the two volume biography by Adrian Desmond - Huxley: the Devil's Disciple and Evolution's High Priest.

Now help us build a replica HMS Beagle to asist with another of Huxley's geat concerns - scientific education and increasing the public understanding of science: eyes down and buy the brillig new t-shirt with Diana Sudyka's logo.

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