Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Scientist and the Anarchist - Part I

The latest stop in the #PDEx tour is being hosted by Jennifer Ouellette at her wonderful blog Cocktail Party Physics.

If the city is an ecosystem, Huxley embodies the phrase “survival of the fittest.” Lanky and high-strung, estranged from his father at an early age, and the youngest of six children, Huxley was primed from birth to view life as a struggle. Born on May 4, 1825 above a butcher’s shop on London’s outskirts, Huxley was the son of a poor schoolteacher and a member of England’s newly emerging middle class (in culture though not in wealth). As such he was determined to separate himself from the ranks of the working poor. In the years to come he would claw his way out of obscurity and establish himself as a celebrated anatomist, President of the Royal Academy of Sciences, and evolutionary theorist widely hailed as “Darwin’s bulldog.” He would forge a path of his own and create a revolution in the way science was practiced. As his biographer, Adrian Desmond, would later put it:

The young hothead scrambled to the top of his profession; indeed he made a profession of science. With him the ‘scientist’ was born.

Read the rest of the post here and stay tuned for Part II next week at Skulls in the Stars.

Adrian Desmond (1997). Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest. Massachusettes: Addison-Wesley.