HotFreeBooks.com
Thomas Henry Huxley; A Sketch Of His Life And Work
by P. Chalmers Mitchell
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Leaders in Science

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY

A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE AND WORK

BY

P. CHALMERS MITCHELL, M.A. (Oxon.)

G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS

NEW YORK

27 WEST TWENTY THIRD STREET

LONDON

24 BEDFORD STREET STRAND

The Knickerbocker Press

1900



COPYRIGHT 1900

BY

G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



PREFACE

This volume is in no sense an intimate or authorised biography of Huxley. It is simply an outline of the external features of his life and an account of his contributions to biology, to educational and social problems, and to philosophy and metaphysics. In preparing it, I have been indebted to his own Autobiography, to the obituary notice written by Sir Michael Foster for the Royal Society of London, to a sketch of him by Professor Howes, his successor at the Royal College of Science, and to his published works. The latter consist of many well-known separate volumes which are familiar to all zooelogists, and of a vast number of memoirs and essays scattered in various scientific and general publications. The general Essays were collected into nine volumes, revised by himself in the later years of his life, and published by Messrs. Macmillan. The Scientific Memoirs, thanks to the generous enterprise of the same publishing firm, with which he was so long associated, and to the pious labours of Sir Michael Foster and Professor Ray Lankester, are in process of reissue in the form of four volumes, two of which have now appeared. These will contain all his important contributions to science, with the exception of a large separate treatise on the Oceanic Hydrozoa published by the Ray Society in 1859. There is also announced a formal Biography, prepared by his son, so that future admirers or students of Huxley's work will be in an exceptionally favourable position.

LONDON, 1900.

P. CHALMERS MITCHELL.



Leaders in Science



CONTENTS

PAGE PREFACE iii

CHAPTER I

FROM SCHOOL TO LIFE-WORK 1

Birth—Parentage—School-days—Choice of Medical Profession—Charing Cross Hospital—End of Medical Studies—Admission to Naval Medical Service.

CHAPTER II

THE VOYAGE OF THE RATTLESNAKE 13

The Objects of the Voyage—The Route—The Naturalist and the Surgeon—Collecting and Dredging—Stay in Sydney—Adventures with the Natives—Comparison with Darwin's Voyage on the Beagle.

CHAPTER III

FLOATING CREATURES OF THE SEA 30

The Nature of Floating Life—Memoir on Medusae Accepted by the Royal Society—Old and New Ideas of the Animal Kingdom—What Huxley Discovered in Medusae—His Comparison of them with Vertebrate Embryos

CHAPTER IV

EARLY DAYS IN LONDON 46

Scientific Work as Unattached Ship-Surgeon—Introduction to London Scientific Society—Translating, Receiving, and Lecturing—Ascidians—Molluscs and the Archetype—Criticism of Pre-Darwinian Evolution—Appointment to Geological Survey.

CHAPTER V

CREATURES OF THE PAST 67

Beginning Palaeontological Work—Fossil Amphibia and Reptilia—Ancestry of Birds—Ancestry of the Horse—Imperfect European Series Completed by Marsh's American Fossils—Meaning of Geological Contemporaneity—Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism Compared with Evolution in Geology—Age of the Earth—Intermediate and Linear Types.

CHAPTER VI

HUXLEY AND DARWIN 89

Early Ideas on Evolution—Erasmus Darwin—Lamarck—Herbert Spencer—Difference between Evolution and Natural Selection—Huxley's Preparation for Evolution—The Novelty of Natural Selection—The Advantage of Natural Selection as a Working Hypothesis—Huxley's Unchanged Position with regard to Evolution and Natural Selection from 1860 to 1894.

CHAPTER VII

THE BATTLE FOR EVOLUTION 110

Huxley's Prevision of the Battle—The Causes of the Battle—The Times Review—Sir Richard Owen attacks Darwinism in the Edinburgh Review—Bishop Wilberforce attacks in the Quarterly Review—Huxley's Scathing Replies—The British Association Debates at Oxford—Huxley and Wilberforce—Resume of Huxley's Exact Position with Regard to Evolution and to Natural Selection.

CHAPTER VIII

VERTEBRATE ANATOMY 128

The Theory of the Vertebrate Skull—Goethe, Oken, Cuvier, and Owen—Huxley Defends Goethe—His own Contributions to the Theory—The Classification of Birds—Huxley Treats them as "Extinct Animals"—Geographical Distribution—Sclater's Regions—Huxley's Suggestions.

CHAPTER IX

MAN AND THE APES 144

Objections to Zooelogical Discussion of Man's Place—Owen's Prudence—Huxley's Determination to Speak out—Account of his Treatment of Man's Place in Nature—Additions Made by More Recent Work.

CHAPTER X

SCIENCE AS A BRANCH OF EDUCATION 167

Science-Teaching Fifty Years Ago—Huxley's Insistence on Reform—Science Primers—Physiography—Elementary Physiology—The Crayfish—Manuals of Anatomy—Modern Microscopical Methods—Practical Work in Biological Teaching—Invention of the Type System—Science in Medical Education—Science and Culture.

CHAPTER XI

GENERAL PROBLEMS OF EDUCATION 188

Establishment of Compulsory Education in England—The Religious Controversy—Huxley Advocates the Bible without Theology—His Compromise on the "Cowper-Temple" Clause—Influence of the New Criticism—Science and Art Instruction—Training of Teachers—University Education—The Baltimore Address—Technical Education—So-called "Applied Science"—National Systems of Education as "Capacity-Catchers."

CHAPTER XII

CITIZEN, ORATOR, AND ESSAYIST 204

Huxley's Activity in Public Affairs—Official in Scientific Societies—Royal Commissions—Vivisection—Characteristics of his Public Speaking—His Method of Exposition—His Essays—Vocabulary—Phrase-Making—His Style Essentially One of Ideas.

CHAPTER XIII

THE OPPONENT OF MATERIALISM 218

Science and Metaphysics—Berkeley, Hume, and Hobbes—Existence of Matter and Mind—Descartes's Contribution—Materialism and Idealism—Criticism of Materialism—Berkeley's Idealism—Criticism of Idealism—Empirical Idealism—Materialism as opposed to Supernaturalism—Mind and Brain—Origin of Life—Teleology, Chance, and the Argument from Design.

CHAPTER XIV

FREEDOM OF THOUGHT 232

Authority and Knowledge in Science—The Duty of Doubt—Authority and Individual Judgment in Religion—The Protestant Position—Sir Charles Lyell and the Deluge—Infallibility—The Church and Science—Morality and Dogma—Civil and Religious Liberty—Agnosticism and Clericalism—Meaning of Agnosticism—Knowledge and Evidence—The Method of Agnosticism.

CHAPTER XV

THE BIBLE AND MIRACLES 245

Why Huxley Came to Write about the Bible—A Magna Charta of the Poor—The Theological Use of the Bible—The Doctrine of Biblical Infallibility—The Bible and Science—The Three Hypotheses of the Earth's History—Changes in the Past Proved—The Creation Hypothesis—Gladstone on Genesis—Genesis not a Record of Fact—The Hypothesis of Evolution—The New Testament—Theory of Inspiration—Reliance on the Miraculous—The Continuity of Nature no a priori Argument against Miracles—-Possibilities and Impossibilities—Miracles a Question of Evidence—Praise of the Bible.

CHAPTER XVI

ETHICS OF THE COSMOS 261

Conduct and Metaphysics—Conventional and Critical Minds—Good and Evil—Huxley's Last Appearance at Oxford—The Ethical Process and the Cosmic Process—Man's Intervention—The Cosmic Process Evil—Ancient Reconciliations—Modern Acceptance of the Difficulties—Criticism of Huxley's Pessimism—Man and his Ethical Aspirations Part of the Cosmos.

CHAPTER XVII

CLOSING DAYS AND SUMMARY 275

Huxley's Life in London—Decennial Periods—Ill-health—Retirement to Eastbourne—Death—Personal Appearance—Methods of Work—Personal Characteristics—An Inspirer of Others—His Influence in Science—A Naturalist by Vocation—His Aspirations.

INDEX 287



ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY—From a photograph by London Stereoscopic Company Frontispiece

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY, 1857—Reproduced by permission from "Natural Science," vol. vii., No. 42 64

SIR JOSEPH DALTON HOOKER—From a photograph by Elliott and Fry, London 98

CHARLES DARWIN—From the painting by Hon. John Collier in the National Portrait Gallery 146

SIR CHARLES LYELL—From a photograph by London Stereoscopic Company 236

CARICATURE OF HUXLEY DRAWN BY HIMSELF—Reproduced by permission from "Natural Science," vol. vii., No. 46. 276



LIST OF HUXLEY'S WRITINGS

This list is offered, not as a bibliography in the technical sense, but as an indication of the sources in which the vast majority of Huxley's scientific and general work may be consulted most conveniently.

The Scientific Memoirs of Thomas Henry Huxley. Edited by Professor Sir Michael Foster and Professor E. Ray Lankester; in four volumes. London, Macmillan & Co.; New York, D. Appleton.

This magnificent collection is intended to contain all Huxley's original scientific papers, brought together from the multitude of scientific periodicals in which they appeared, with reproductions of the original illustrations. The only exception is the monograph on Oceanic Hydrozoa. The first volume appeared in 1898; the second in 1899, and the others are to follow quickly.

Collected Essays by T.H. Huxley; nine volumes of the Eversley Series. Macmillan & Co. London, 1893-95.

This set, edited by Huxley himself, contains the more important of his more general contributions to science and his literary, philosophical, and political and critical essays. Each volume has a preface specially written, and the first volume contains his autobiography.

The Oceanic Hydrozoa; a description of the Calycophoridae and Physophoridae observed during the Voyage of H.M.S. Rattlesnake in the years 1846-50, with a general introduction. Ray Society. London, 1859.

Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. Williams & Norgate. London, 1863.

On our Knowledge of the Causes of Organic Phenomena; being Six Lectures to Working Men. Hardwicke. London, 1863.

Lectures on the Elements of Comparative Anatomy. On the Classification of Animals and the Vertebrate Skull. Churchill & Sons. London, 1864.

An Elementary Atlas of Comparative Osteology. In twelve plates. Williams & Norgate. London, 1864.

Lessons in Elementary Physiology. Macmillan & Co. London, 1866.

An Introduction to the Classification of Animals. Churchill. London, 1869.

A Manual of the Anatomy of Vertebrated Animals. Churchill. London, 1871.

A Course of Practical Instruction in Elementary Biology, assisted by H.N. Martin. Macmillan. London, 1875.

A Manual of the Anatomy of Invertebrated Animals. Churchill. London, 1877.

Lay Sermons, Essays, and Reviews. Macmillan. London, 1877.

American Addresses, with a Lecture on the Study of Biology. Macmillan. London, 1877.

Physiography, an Introduction to the Study of Zooelogy. International Scientific Series. Kegan Paul. London, 1880.

Introductory Primer. Science Primers. Macmillan. London, 1880.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. Edited by his son, Francis Darwin. Volume II., with Chapter V. by Professor Huxley on the Reception of the Origin of Species. John Murray. London, 1887.

Life of Richard Owen. By his grandson. With an Essay on Owen's Position in Anatomical Science, by T.H. Huxley. John Murray. London, 1894.



THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY

CHAPTER I

FROM SCHOOL TO LIFE-WORK

Birth—Parentage—School-days—Choice of Medical Profession—Charing Cross Hospital—End of Medical Studies—Admission to Naval Medical Service.

Some men are born to greatness: even before their arrival in the world their future is marked out for them. All the advantages that wealth and the experience of friends can bring attend their growth to manhood, and their success almost loses its interest because of the ease with which it is attained. Few of the leaders of science were in such a position: many of them, such as Priestley, Davy, Faraday, John Hunter, and Linnaeus were of humble parentage, and received the poorest education: most of them, like Huxley himself, have come from parents who were able to do little more for their children than set them out into life along the ordinary educational avenues. In Huxley's boyhood at least a comfortable income was necessary for this: in every civilised country nowadays, state endowments, or private endowments, are ready to help every capable boy, as far as Huxley was helped, and in his progress from boyhood to supreme distinction, there is nothing that cannot be emulated by every boy at school to-day. The minds of human beings when they are born into the world are as naked as their bodies; it matters not if parents, grandparents, and remoter ancestors were unlettered or had the wisdom of all the ages, the new mind has to build up its own wisdom from the beginning. We cannot even say with certainty that children inherit mental aptitudes and capacities from their parents; for as tall sons may come from short parents or beautiful daughters from ugly parents, so we may find in the capacities of the parents no traces of the future greatness of their children. None the less it is interesting to learn what we can about the parents of great men; and Huxley tells us that he thinks himself to have inherited many characters of his body and mind from his mother.

Thomas Henry Huxley was born on the 4th of May, 1825, at Ealing, then a little country village, now united to London as a great suburb. He was the seventh child of George Huxley, who was second master at the school of Dr. Nicholson at Ealing. In these days private schools of varying character were very numerous in England, and this establishment seems to have been of high-class character, for Cardinal Newman and many other distinguished men received part of their education there. His mother, whose maiden name was Rachel Withers, was, he tells us himself:[A]

"A slender brunette of an emotional and energetic temperament, and possessed of the most piercing black eyes I ever saw in a woman's head. With no more education than other women of the middle classes in her day, she had an excellent mental capacity. Her most distinguishing characteristic, however, was rapidity of thought. If one ventured to suggest she had not taken much time to arrive at any conclusion, she would say, 'I cannot help it. Things flash across me.' That peculiarity has been passed on to me in full strength: it has often stood me in good stead: it has sometimes played me sad tricks, and it has always been a danger. But, after all, if my time were to come over again there is nothing I would less willingly part with than my inheritance of 'mother wit.'"

From his father he thinks that he inherited little except an inborn capacity for drawing, "a hot temper, and that amount of tenacity of purpose which unfriendly observers sometimes call obstinacy." As it happened, this natural gift for drawing proved of the greatest service to him throughout his career. It is imperative that every investigator of the anatomy of plants and animals should be able to sketch his observations, and there is no greater aid to seeing things as they are than the continuous attempt to reproduce them by pencil or brush.

Huxley was christened Thomas Henry, and he was unaware why these names were chosen, but he humorously records the curious chance that his parents should have chosen for him the "name of that particular apostle with whom he had always felt most sympathy."

Of his childhood little is recorded. He remembers being vain of his curls, and his mother's expressed regret that he soon lost the beauty of early childhood. He attended for some time the school at Ealing with which his father was associated, but he has little to say for the training he received there. He writes:

"My regular school training was of the briefest, perhaps fortunately: for, though my way of life has made me acquainted with all sorts and conditions of men, from the highest to the lowest, I deliberately affirm that the society I fell into at school was the worst I have ever known. We boys were average lads with much the same inherent capacity for good and evil as any others; but the people who were set over us cared about as much for our intellectual and moral welfare as if they were baby-farmers. We were left to the operation of the struggle for existence among ourselves, and bullying was the least of the ill practices current among us. Almost the only cheerful reminiscence in connection with the place which arises in my mind is that of a battle which I had with one of my class-mates, who had bullied me until I could stand it no longer. I was a very slight lad, but there was a wild-cat element in me which, when roused, made up for my lack of weight, and I licked my adversary effectually. However, one of my first experiences of the extremely rough and ready nature of justice, as exhibited by the course of things in general, arose out of the fact that I—the victor—had a black eye, while he—the vanquished—had none, so that I got into disgrace and he did not. One of the greatest shocks I ever received in my life was to be told, a dozen years afterwards by the groom who brought me my horse in a stable-yard in Sydney, that he was my quondam antagonist. He had a long story of family misfortune to account for his position—but at that time it was necessary to deal very cautiously with mysterious strangers in New South Wales, and on enquiry I found that the unfortunate young man had not only been 'sent out,' but had undergone more than one colonial conviction."

Huxley was soon removed from school and continued his own education for several years, by reading of the most desultory sort. His special inclinations were towards mechanical problems, and had he been able to follow his own wishes there is little doubt but that he would have entered on the profession of an engineer. It is probable that there was a great deal more in his wishes than the familiar inclination of a clever boy to engineering. All through the pursuit of anatomy, which was the chief business of his life, it was the structure of animals, the different modifications of great ground-plans which they presented, that interested him. But the opportunity for engineering did not present itself, and at an exceedingly early age he began to study medicine. Two brothers-in-law were doctors, and this accidental fact probably determined his choice. In these days the study of medicine did not begin as now with a general and scientific education, but the young medical student was apprenticed to a doctor engaged in practice. He was supposed to learn the compounding of drugs in the dispensary attached to the doctor's consulting-room; to be taught the dressing of wounds and the superficial details of the medical craft while he pursued his studies in anatomy under the direction of the doctor. Huxley's master was his brother-in-law, Dr. Salt, a London practitioner, and he began his work when only twelve or thirteen years of age. In this system everything depended upon the superior; under the careful guidance of a conscientious and able man it was possible for an apt pupil to learn a great deal of science and to become an expert in the treatment of disease. Huxley, however, had only a short experience of this kind of training. He was taken by some senior student friends to a post-mortem examination, and although then, as all through his life, he was most sensitive to the disagreeable side of anatomical pursuits, on this occasion he gratified his curiosity too ardently. He did not cut himself, but in some way poisonous matter from the body affected him, and he fell into so bad a state of health that he had to be sent into the country to recruit. He lived for some time at a farmhouse in Warwickshire with friends of his father and slowly recovered health. From that time, however, all through his life, he suffered periodically from prostrating dyspepsia. After some months devoted to promiscuous reading he resumed his work under his brother-in-law in London. He confesses that he was far from a model student.

"I worked extremely hard when it pleased me, and when it did not,—which was a frequent case,—I was extremely idle (unless making caricatures of one's pastors and masters is to be called a branch of industry), or else wasted my energies in wrong directions. I read everything I could lay hands upon, including novels, and took up all sorts of pursuits to drop them again quite speedily."

It is almost certain, however, that Huxley underestimated the value of this time. He stored his mind with both literature and science, and laid the foundation of the extremely varied intellectual interests which afterwards proved to him of so much value. It is certain, also, that during this time he acquired a fair knowledge of French and German. It would be difficult to exaggerate the value to him of this addition to his weapons for attacking knowledge. To do the best work in any scientific pursuit it is necessary to freshen one's own mind by contact with the ideas and results of other workers. As these workers are scattered over different countries it is necessary to transcend the confusion of Babel and read what they write in their own tongues. When Huxley was young, the great reputation of Cuvier overshadowed English anatomy, and English anatomists did little more than seek in nature what Cuvier had taught them to find. In Germany other men and other ideas were to be found. Johannes Mueller and Von Baer were attacking the problems of nature in a spirit that was entirely different, and Huxley, by combining what he was taught in England with what he learned from German methods, came to his own investigations with a wider mind. But his conquest of French and German brought with it advantages in addition to these technical gains. There is no reason to believe that he troubled himself with grammatical details and with the study of these languages as subjects in themselves. He acquired them simply to discover the new ideas concealed in them, and he by no means confined himself to the reading of foreign books on the subjects of his own studies. He read French and German poetry, literature, and philosophy, and so came to have a knowledge of the ideas of those outside his own race on all the great problems that interest mankind. A good deal has been written as to the narrowing tendency of scientific pursuits, but with Huxley, as with all the scientific men the present writer has known, the mechanical necessity of learning to read other languages has brought with it that wide intellectual sympathy which is the beginning of all culture and which is not infrequently missed by those who have devoted themselves to many grammars and a single literature. The old proverb, "Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well," has only value when "well" is properly interpreted. Although the science of language is as great as any science, it is not the science of language, but the practical interpretation of it, that is of value to most people, and there is much to be said for the method of anatomists like Huxley, who passed lightly over grammatical minutiae and went straight with a dictionary to the reading of each new tongue.

After a short period of apprenticeship, or sometimes during the course of it, the young medical students "walked" a hospital. This consisted in attending the demonstrations of the physicians and surgeons in the wards of the hospital and in pursuing anatomical, chemical, and physiological study in the medical school attached to the hospital. A large fee was charged for the complete course, but at many of the hospitals there were entrance scholarships which relieved those who gained them of all cost. In 1842 Huxley and his elder brother, James, applied for such free scholarships at Charing Cross Hospital. There is no record in the books of the hospital as to what persons supported the application. The entry in the minutes for September 6, 1842, states that

"Applications from the following gentlemen (including the two sons of Mr. George Huxley, late senior assistant master in Ealing School), were laid before the meeting, and their testimonials being approved of, it was decided that those gentlemen should be admitted as free scholars, if their classical attainments should be found upon examination to be satisfactory."

It appears that the two Huxleys were able to satisfy the probably unexacting demands of the classical examiners, for they began their hospital work in October of the same year.

Those who know the magnificent laboratories and lecture-rooms which have grown up in connection with the larger London hospitals must have difficulty in realising the humble arrangements for teaching students in the early forties. What endowments there were—and Charing Cross was never a richly endowed hospital—were devoted entirely to the hospital as opposed to the teaching school. There were no separate buildings for anatomy, physiology, and so forth. At Charing Cross the dissecting-room was in a cellar under the hospital, and subjects like chemistry, botany, physiology, and so forth were crowded into inconvenient side rooms. The teachers were not specialists, devoting their whole attention to particular branches of science, but were doctors engaged in practice, who, in addition to their private duties and their work at the hospital, each undertook to lecture upon a special scientific subject. Huxley came specially under the influence of Mr. Wharton Jones, who had begun to teach physiology at the hospital a year before. Mr. Jones throughout his life was engaged in professional work, his specialty being ophthalmic surgery, but he was a devoted student of anatomy and physiology, and made several classical contributions to scientific knowledge, his best-known discoveries relating to blood corpuscles and to the nature of the mammalian egg-cell. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame is that it was he who first imbued Huxley with a love for anatomical science and with a knowledge of the methods of investigation. At the end of his first session, in 1843, Huxley received the first prize in the senior physiology class, while his brother got a "good conduct" prize. Of Wharton Jones Huxley writes:

"The extent and precision of his knowledge impressed me greatly, and the severe exactness of his method of lecturing was quite to my taste. I do not know that I have ever felt so much respect for anybody as a teacher before or since. I worked hard to obtain his approbation, and he was extremely kind and helpful to the youngster who, I am afraid, took up more of his time than he had any right to do. It was he who suggested the publication of my first scientific paper—a very little one—in the Medical Gazette of 1845, and most kindly corrected the literary faults which abounded in it short as it was. For at that time, and for many years afterwards, I detested the trouble of writing and would take no pains over it."

This little paper, although Huxley deprecates it, was remarkable as the work of so young an investigator. In it he demonstrated the existence of a hitherto unrecognised layer in the inner root-sheath of hairs, a layer that has been known since as Huxley's layer.

There is no record in the minutes of the hospital school that Huxley gained any other school prizes. His name reappears only in formal applications at the beginning of each session for the renewal of his free scholarship. In this respect he is in marked contrast to his fellow-student, afterwards Sir Joseph Fayrer, who appears to have taken almost every prize open to him. On the other hand, his attainments in anatomy and physiology brought him distinction in a wider field than the hospital school, for he obtained, in the "honours" division of the first examination for the degree of Bachelor of Medicine at the University of London, the second place with a medal. And it is certain that he was far from neglecting his strictly professional work, although, no doubt, he devoted much time to reading and research in pure science, for in the winter of 1845-46, having completed his course at the hospital, he was prepared to offer himself at the examination for the membership of the Royal College of Surgeons; but, being as yet under twenty-one years of age, could not be admitted as a candidate.

It was now time for Huxley definitely to enter on his profession. He would have preferred to continue his investigations in London and to wait for the chance of a teaching post in physiology, but it was necessary to earn a living. One of those whom he consulted was his fellow-student, Joseph Fayrer, who, hailing from Bermuda, knew something of those who go down to the sea in ships. He advised Huxley to write to Sir William Burnett, at that time Director-General for the medical service of the navy, for an appointment.

"I thought this rather a strong thing to do," says Huxley in his autobiography, "as Sir William was personally unknown to me; but my cheery friend would not listen to my scruples, so I went to my lodgings and wrote the best letter I could devise. A few days afterwards I received the usual official circular of acknowledgement, but at the bottom was written an instruction to call at Somerset House on such a day. I thought that looked like business, so, at the appointed time I called and sent in my card, while I waited in Sir William's ante-room. He was a tall, shrewd-looking old gentleman, with a broad Scotch accent—and I think I see him now as he entered with my card in his hand. The first thing he did was to return it with the frugal reminder that I should probably find it useful on some other occasion. The second was to ask whether I was an Irishman. I suppose the air of modesty about my appeal must have struck him. I satisfied the Director-General that I was English to the backbone, and he made some enquiries as to my student career, finally desiring me to hold myself ready for examination. Having passed this, I was in Her Majesty's service, and entered on the books of Nelson's old ship, the Victory, for duty at Haslar Hospital, about a couple of months after I made my application."

About the same time he passed the examination of the Royal College of Surgeons and so became a fully qualified medical man. Haslar Hospital was the chief naval hospital to which invalided sailors were sent. There was a considerable staff of young surgeons, as navy surgeons were usually sent for a term to work in the hospital before being gazetted to a ship in commission. In connection with the hospital, there was a museum of natural history containing a collection of considerable importance slowly gathered from the gifts of sailors and officers. The museum curator was an enthusiastic naturalist, and Huxley must have had the opportunity of extending his knowledge of at least the external characters of many forms of life hitherto unknown to him. A few years later, the curator of the museum, with the help of two of Huxley's successors, published a Manual of Natural History for the Use of Travellers, and it is certain that Huxley at least did not lose at Haslar any of the enthusiasm for zooelogy with which he had been inspired at the Charing Cross Hospital. The chief of the hospital was Sir John Richardson, an excellent naturalist, and well known as an arctic explorer. He seems to have recognised the peculiar ability of his young assistant, and although he was a silent, reserved man, who seldom encouraged his assistants by talking to them, he made several attempts to obtain a suitable post for Huxley. Such a post was that of surgeon to H.M.S. Rattlesnake, then about to start under the command of Captain Owen Stanley for surveying work in the Torres Straits. Captain Stanley had expressed a wish for a surgeon who knew something of science, and, on the recommendation of Sir John Richardson, obtained the post for Huxley. There was, however, to be a special naturalist attached to the expedition, but Huxley had the opportunity he wanted. After a brief stay of seven months at the Haslar Hospital he left it for his ship, and thus definitely entered on his work in the world.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote A: This and many other details in this chapter are taken from an autobiographical sketch in the first volume of Huxley's collected essays published by Macmillan, London, 1894.]



CHAPTER II

THE VOYAGE OF THE "RATTLESNAKE"

The Objects of the Voyage—The Route—The Naturalist and the Surgeon—Collecting and Dredging—Stay in Sydney—Adventures with the Natives—Comparison with Darwin's Voyage on the Beagle.

Her Majesty's ship the Rattlesnake, one of the old class of 28-gun ships, sailed from Plymouth for the Torres Straits and the Australian seas on December 12, 1846. Her commander was Captain Owen Stanley, a young but distinguished officer, the son of the Bishop of Norwich and a brother of Dean Stanley, who afterwards played so great a part in the social and religious history of England. She carried a complement of 180 officers and men, and was attended by the Bramble and the Castlereagh, two small vessels of light draught, whose purpose was to precede her in shallow waters. The young colonies of Australia were developing commerce with the mother country, and the business of the Rattlesnake was to survey the waters round about the Torres Straits, that the passage towards India on the homeward trip might be made safer. Incidentally the vessel was to land a treasure of L50,000 at the Cape of Good Hope, and another of L15,000 at the Mauritius. The Admiralty Commissioners left full powers to Captain Stanley to carry out the details of his mission according to his own judgment, but he was solemnly warned upon two points. Many very unfortunate casualties had occurred when sailors came in contact with the little-known savages of the southern seas, and the Admiralty instructed him as follows:

"In stretching off from the Barrier Reefs to the eastward, in order to explore the safety of the sea intervening between them and Louisiade and New Guinea, you will have occasion to approach these shores, in which case you must constantly be on your guard against the treacherous disposition of their inhabitants. All barter for refreshments must be conducted under the eye of an officer, and every pains be taken to avoid giving any just cause of offence to their prejudices, especially with respect to their women."

The second warning concerned grave international matters. European politics were in the unsettled condition which, after the illusive international courtesies of the Great Exhibition of 1851, ended in the Crimean War, and it was feared that in the event of hostilities breaking out, the zeal of the officers for their country might tempt them to transcend their peaceful occupation. The instructions with regard to this ran as follows:

"In the event of this country being involved in hostilities during your absence, you will take care never to be surprised; but you are to refrain from any act of aggression towards the vessels or settlements of any nation with which we may be at war, as expeditions employed on behalf of discovery and science have always been considered by all civilised communities as acting under a general safeguard."

The great scientific expeditions sent out in recent times by the governments of Britain, Germany, and the United States, were fitted with every convenience for the staff of naturalists, and the luxuries and comforts of civilisation attended them round the world. The late Professor Mosely, for instance, who was a naturalist on the English Challenger expedition, told the present writer of a pleasant way in which a peculiarity of the deep sea was made to pay toll to the comfort of those on board ship. The great ocean depths all over the world, under the burning skies of the tropics, or below the arctic ice-fields, are extremely cold, the water at the bottom always being only a few degrees above freezing point. When the dredge brought up a sample of the abysmal mud at a convenient time, it was used to ice the wine for the officers' mess. There was, however, no cooled champagne for Huxley.

"Life on board Her Majesty's ships in those days," he writes, "was a very different affair from what it is now, and ours was exceptionally rough, as we were often many months without receiving letters or seeing any civilised people but ourselves. In exchange, we had the interest of being about the latest voyagers, I suppose, to whom it could be possible to meet with people who knew nothing of fire-arms—as we did on the south coast of New Guinea—and of making acquaintances with a variety of interesting savage and semi-civilised people. But apart from experience of this kind, and the opportunities offered for scientific work, to me personally the cruise was extremely valuable. It was good for me to live under sharp discipline; to be down on the realities of existence by living on bare necessities; to find out how extremely well worth living life seemed to be when one woke up from a night's rest on a soft plank with the sky for canopy, and cocoa and weevilly biscuit the sole prospect for breakfast; and more especially to learn to work for the sake of what I got for myself out of it, even if it all went to the bottom and I myself along with it. My brother officers were as good fellows as sailors ought to be, and generally are, but naturally they neither knew nor cared anything about my pursuits, nor understood why I should be so zealous in pursuit of the objects which my friends the middies christened 'Buffons,' after the title conspicuous on a volume of the Suites a Buffon which stood on my shelf in the chart-room."

Huxley was only the surgeon on board the Rattlesnake, and his pursuit of natural history was his own affair. There was a special naturalist appointed to the expedition, no doubt chosen because four years earlier, as assistant to Professor Jukes, he had been attached as naturalist to the expedition of the Fly in the same waters. His name was John MacGillivray, and he was the son of an exceedingly able naturalist whose reputation has been overshadowed by the greater names of the middle century. William MacGillivray, the father, sometime professor at the University of Aberdeen, was one of those driven by an almost instinctive desire to the study of nature. In his youth, when he was a poor lad, desiring to see as much as possible of his native land, and above all to visit the great museums and libraries of the south, he walked from Aberdeen to London with no luggage but a copy of Smith's Flora Britannica. He was an ardent botanist, a collector of insects and molluscs, and one of the pioneers in the anatomy of birds. There are many curious allusions in his writings which seem to shew that he too was beginning to doubt the fixity of species, and to guess at the struggle for existence and survival of the fittest which the great Darwin was the first to make a part of the knowledge of the world. It must be confessed that his son John, the companion of Huxley, had little of his father's ability. He was three years older than Huxley, and broke off his medical course at the University of Edinburgh to sail in the Fly. After the return of the Rattlesnake, he was appointed in 1852 as naturalist to H.M.S. Herald, then starting under Captain Denham for surveying work round the shores of South America. He left that ship at Sydney, and after many years' wandering about the southern seas, accounts of which he communicated from time to time to Sydney newspapers, he died in 1867. He was a zealous collector of plants and animals, but apparently cared little for the study of his captures, either in life, in relation to their surroundings, like Darwin, or for the structure of their bodies, like Huxley. The somewhat unpleasing nature of his regard for animals appears in the following story which he himself tells:

"While at dinner off Darnley Island near the Torres Straits, news was brought that Dzum was under the stern in a canoe, shouting out loudly for Dzoka (MacGillivray's native name), and, on going up I found that he had brought off the barit, which after a deal of trouble I struck a bargain for and obtained. It was a very fine specimen of Cuscus Maculatus, quite tame and kept in a large cage of split bamboo. Dzum seemed very unwilling to part with the animal, and repeatedly enjoined me to take great care of it and feed it well, which to please him I promised to do, although I valued it merely for its skin, and was resolved to kill it for that purpose at my first convenience."

On the other hand, MacGillivray paid great attention to native languages, and collected vocabularies of some value. To him was entrusted the task of writing an account of the voyage, and it is from his rather dull pages, brightened by illustrations from Huxley's sketches, that the incidents of the voyage are taken. The references to Huxley in the narrative are slight, and seem to shew that no great intimacy existed between the two young men, the one a naturalist by profession, the other as yet a surgeon, but more devoted to natural history than the naturalist. Such references as occur relate to Huxley's constant occupations on shore, sketching natives and their dwellings, and his apparatus on board for trawling, dredging, and dissecting.

The voyage out was uneventful. The ship touched at Madeira and at Rio de Janeiro, and then crossed the South Atlantic to Simon's Town at the Cape of Good Hope, where the first quantity of treasure was to be landed. There they found the colony distressed by the long continuance of the Kaffir war. Prices for everything were extortionate, and the colonists had no mind for any affairs than their own, so after a short stay the voyagers were glad to set out for the Mauritius. That island, although in the possession of Britain, still retained a strong impress of its French occupation, and the travellers were interested by the mixture of population inhabiting it.[B]

"Passing through the closely packed lines of shipping, and landing as a stranger at Port Louis, perhaps the first thing to engage attention is the strange mixture of nations,—representatives, he might at first be inclined to imagine, of half the countries of the earth. He stares at a coolie from Madras with a breech-cloth and a soldier's jacket, or a stately bearded Moor striking a bargain with a Parsee merchant. A Chinaman with two bundles slung on a bamboo hurries past, jostling a group of young Creole exquisites smoking their cheroots at a corner, and talking of last night's Norma, or the programme of the evening's performance at the Hippodrome in the Champ de Mars. His eye next catches a couple of sailors reeling out of a grogshop, to the amusement of a group of laughing negresses, in white muslin dresses of the latest Parisian fashion, contrasting strongly with a modestly attired Cingalese woman, and an Indian ayah with her young charge. Amidst all this, the French language prevails; and everything more or less pertains of the French character, and an Englishman can scarcely believe that he is in one of the colonies of his own country."

From Mauritius they proceeded to the English-looking colony of Tasmania, and after a few days set out for Sydney, arriving there on July 16th. The surveying officers had tedious work to do there, and Huxley stayed in Sydney for three months. Then, and in the course of three other prolonged stays in that town during the expedition, Huxley entered into the society of the town and became a general favourite. He is still remembered there, and the accompanying illustration[C] is a copy of an original sketch of himself, now in the possession of an Australian lady. He drew it on the fly-leaf of a volume of Lytton's poems and presented it on her birthday to the little daughter of a friend. At Sydney, too, he met and gained the love of the lady, then Miss Henrietta A. Heathorn, who afterwards became his wife.

On October 11th the Rattlesnake sailed northwards to begin the real work of the expedition. The great island of New Guinea, lying to the north of Australia, is separated from it only by the comparatively narrow Torres Straits. Through these lies the natural route for the commerce between Australia and the Northern Hemisphere. The eastward prolongation of New Guinea, and the coast of Queensland, enclose between them a great tropical sea which gradually converges to the Straits. The waters are very tempestuous, and the navigation is made more dangerous by the thousands of coral islands and coral reefs that stud the ocean. Following the shoreline of Queensland, at a distance of from ten to one hundred and fifty miles, and stretching for twelve hundred and fifty miles, is the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, one of the wonders of the world. The shelving floor of the ocean rises nearly to the surface along this line, and vast colonies of coral building creatures have formed their reefs up to the water's edge along the ridge. The turbulent waves scouring over this living mass have carved and moulded it into millions of fantastic islands, sometimes heaping detached masses of dead debris high above the surface of the water. At low tide the most wonderful fields of the animal flowers of the sea are exposed. Some of them form branching systems of hard skeletons like stony trees, the soft, brightly coloured animals dotted over the stems like buds. Others form solid masses; others, again, rounded skull like boulders, or elevations like toadstools. The colours of the skeletons and the animals are vivid scarlets and purples and greens. Sea anemones, shell-fish, and starfish of the most vivid hues are as abundant as the corals. Brilliant fish dart through the blossoms of the marine gardens, and sea birds scream and wheel in the air. The whole region is a paradise for the naturalist. Along the seaward side of the reef the great ocean surges and thunders perpetually. Between it and the shore the quiet channel glows under the tropical skies. It was amid such scenes as these that the Rattlesnake moved for nearly four years in the slow work of taking soundings, fixing the exact position of channels through the outer reef by slow triangular measurements, and generally preparing for the safety of the commerce of all nations. The ship went first up to Port Curtis in Brisbane; then fetched back to Sydney. Its next trip was south to the strait between Tasmania and Australia, then back to Sydney; then again along the Barrier Reef right up to the Torres Straits. After work there, it returned again to Sydney, and then set out for the Louisiade Archipelago, which stretches through the coral sea south-eastward from New Guinea; then again to the Australian shores of the Torres Straits, and finally arrived in Sydney in March, 1850, where the Captain suddenly died, and the ship was ordered to return to England.

Throughout the voyage MacGillivray and Huxley busied themselves with collecting animals on sea and on shore. MacGillivray seems to have taken for his share of the spoil chiefly such animals as provided shells or skins or skeletons suitable for handing over to museums. Huxley occupied himself incessantly with dissecting tools and with the microscope, with results to be described in a later chapter. The better equipped expeditions of modern times were provided with elaborate appliances for bringing up samples of living creatures from all depths of the floor of the ocean, and with complicated towing nets for securing the floating creatures of the surface of the seas. The Rattlesnake naturalists had to content themselves with simple apparatus devised by themselves. At an early period of the voyage attempts were made to take deep soundings, but no bottom was reached at a depth of two thousand four hundred fathoms, and their later work was confined to surface animals or to inshore dredging in shallow waters. They began near Rio.

"None of the ship's boats could be spared, so I [MacGillivray] hired one pulled by four negro slaves who, although strong, active fellows, had great objections to straining their backs at the oar, when the dredge was down. No sieve having been supplied, we were obliged to sift the contents of the dredge through our hands—a tedious and superficial mode of examination. Two days after, Mr. Huxley and I set to work in Botafogo Bay, provided with a wire-gauze meat-cover and a curious machine for cleaning rice; these answered capitally as substitutes for sieves, and enabled us, by a thorough examination of the contents of the dredge, to detect some forty-five species of Mollusca and Radiata, some of which were new to science."

By "new to science" MacGillivray meant no more than that the particular genera and species had not been captured before. Huxley, by his anatomical work, showed many of the most familiar creatures in a light "new to science," by revealing their true structure and relationships.

"Among the acquisitions," MacGillivray goes on, "I may mention a new species of Amphioxus, a genus of small fishes exhibiting more anomalies than any other known to Ichthyologists, and the lowest organisation found in the class. It somewhat resembles the sand-eels of Britain in habits, like them moving with extraordinary rapidity through the sand. By dint of bribery and ridicule we had at length managed to get our boatmen to work tolerably well, and when we were alike well-roasted by the sun and repeatedly drenched, besides being tired out and hungry, they had become quite submissive, and exchanged their grumbling for merriment."

The towing net repeatedly produced a rich harvest. It was constructed by themselves, and consisted of a bag of the bunting used for flags, two feet deep, the mouth being sewn round a wooden hoop fourteen inches in diameter; three pieces of cord, a foot and a half long, were secured to the hoop at equal intervals and had their ends tied together. This net was towed behind the ship by a stout cord. The water passed through the meshes of the cloth and left behind in the pocket any small floating animals.

Excursions ashore to the little savage islands or to the mainland were a source of constant interest, and it cannot be doubted that the acquaintance Huxley thus gained with many of the very low savages of Australia and New Guinea prepared his mind for the revolutionary doctrine of descent which he embraced a few years later. At the present time, there are probably very few parts of earth where there are yet to be found savages unaltered by civilisation. Some of the low races with which Huxley came in contact are now extinct. All the survivors have come in contact with white races, and their habits and customs have been altered. Before long the total extinction of these lower races is to be expected, and there will then be left an enormous gap between the lower animals and the dominant, aggressive, yellow and white races which are spreading over the earth and making the lower races perish before them, as the smaller but more cunning European rat has exterminated the native brown rat of Australia. In their various excursions upon the Australian mainland they had no trouble of any kind with the natives. These were at first suspicious of the doings of the white men, and their total ignorance of the use of firearms tempted them to rashness; but a few friendly gifts, and the exercise of tact in negotiating exchanges with them, made all the encounters pass off pleasantly. On the other hand, in the Louisiade Archipelago where the savages were of a higher type, difficulties constantly occurred. On one occasion, in a bay on the south side of Joannet Island the party was attacked.

"In the grey of the morning the look-outs reported the approach of three canoes with about ten men in each. On two or three persons shewing themselves in the bow of the pinnace, in front of the rain awning, the natives ceased paddling, as if baulked in their design of surprising the large boat; but, after a short consultation, they came alongside in their usual noisy manner. After a stay of about five minutes only they pushed off to the galley, and some more sham bartering was attempted, but they had nothing to give in exchange for the wares they so much coveted. In a short time the rudeness and overbearing insolence of the natives had risen to a pitch which left no doubt of their hostile intentions. The anchor was got up, when some of the blacks seized the painter, and others, in trying to capsize the boat, brought the gunwale down to the water's edge, at the same time grappling with the men to pull them out, and dragging the galley inshore towards the shoal-water. The bowman, with the anchor in his hand, was struck on the head with a stone-headed axe. The blow was repeated, but fortunately took effect only on the wash-streak. Another of the crew was struck at with a similar weapon, but warded off the blow, although held fast by one arm, when, just as the savage was making another stroke, Lieutenant Dayman, who up till now had exercised the utmost forbearance, fired at him with a musket. The man did not drop, although wounded in the thigh. But even this, unquestionably their first experience of firearms, did not intimidate the natives, one of whom, standing on a block of coral, threw a spear which passed across the breast of one of the boat's crew and lodged in the bend of one arm, opening a vein. They raised a loud shout when the spear was seen to take effect, and threw several others which missed. Lieutenant Simpson, who had been watching what was going on, then fired from the pinnace with buckshot and struck them, when, finding that the large boat, though at anchor, could assist the smaller one, the canoes were paddled inshore in great haste and confusion. Some more musket shots were fired, and the galley went in chase endeavouring to turn the canoes, so as to bring them under fire of the pinnace's twelve-pounder howitzer, which was speedily mounted and fired. The shot either struck one of the canoes or went within a few inches of the mark, on which the natives instantly jumped overboard into the shallow water, making for the mangroves, which they succeeded in reaching, dragging their canoes with them. Two rounds of grape-shot crashing through the branches dispersed the party, but afterwards they moved two of the canoes out of sight. The remaining one was brought out after breakfast by the galley under cover of the pinnace, and was towed off to some distance. The paddles having been taken out and the spears broken and left in her, she was let go to drift down toward a village whence the attacking party were supposed to have come. Some blood in this canoe, although not the one most aimed at, showed that the firing had not been ineffective. This act of deliberate treachery was perpetrated by persons who had always been well treated by us, for several of the natives present were recognised as having been alongside the ship in Coral Haven. This, their first act of positive hostility, affords, I think, conclusive evidence of the savage disposition of the natives of this part of the Louisiade Archipelago when incited by the hope of plunder, and shews that no confidence should ever be reposed in them, unless, perhaps in the presence of a numerically superior force, or in the close vicinity of a ship. At the same time, the boldness of these savages in attacking, with thirty men in three canoes, two boats known to contain at least twenty persons—even in the hopes of taking them by surprise—and in not being at once driven off upon feeling the novel and deadly effects of firearms, shews no little amount of bravery."

On their last visit to Cape York, in the extreme north of Australia, the party had the remarkable experience of rescuing a white woman from captivity among the natives.

"In the afternoon some of our people on shore were surprised to see a young white woman come up to claim their protection from a party of natives from whom she had recently made her escape, and who she thought would otherwise bring her back. Of course she received every attention, and was taken on board the ship by the first boat, when she told her story which is briefly as follows: Her name is Barbara Thomson. She was born at Aberdeen in Scotland, and, along with her parents, emigrated to New South Wales. About four years and a half ago she left Moreton Bay with her husband in a small cutter, called the America, of which he was the owner, for the purpose of picking up some of the oil from the wreck of a whaler, lost on the Bampton shoal, to which place one of her late crew undertook to guide them; their ultimate intention was to go on to Port Essington. The man who acted as pilot was unable to find the wreck, and after much quarreling on board in consequence, and the loss of two men by drowning and of another who was left on a small uninhabited island, they made their way up to the Torres Straits, where, during a gale of wind their vessel struck upon a reef on the eastern Prince of Wales Island. The two remaining men were lost in attempting to swim on shore through the surf, but the woman was afterwards rescued by a party of natives on a turtling excursion, who, when the gale subsided, swam on board and supported her on shore between two of their number. One of these blacks, Boroto by name, took possession of the woman as his share of the plunder; she was compelled to live with him, but was well treated by all the men, although many of the women, jealous of the attention shewn her, for a long time evinced anything but kindness. A curious circumstance secured for her the protection of one of the principal men of the tribe. This person, acting upon the belief, universal throughout Australia and the islands of the Torres Strait, so far as hitherto known, that white people are the ghosts of the aborigines, fancied that in the stranger he recognised a long-lost daughter, and at once admitted her into the relationship which he thought had formerly subsisted between them. She was immediately acknowledged by the whole tribe as one of themselves, thus securing an extensive connection in relatives of all denominations. The headquarters of the tribe being on an island which all vessels passing through the Torres Strait from the eastward must approach within two or three miles, she had the mortification of seeing from twenty to thirty or more ships go through every summer without anchoring in the neighbourhood, so as to afford the slightest opportunity of making her escape. Last year she heard of our two vessels being at Cape York, only twenty miles distant from some of the tribe who had communicated with us and had been well treated, but they would not take her over and watched her even more narrowly than before. On our second and present visit, however, which the Cape York people immediately announced by smoke signals to their friends, she was successful in persuading some of her more immediate friends to bring her across to the mainland within a short distance of where the vessels lay. The blacks were credulous enough to believe that as she had been so long with them and had been so well treated, she did not intend to leave them,—only 'she felt a strong desire to see the white people once more and shake hands with them': adding that she would be certain to purchase some axes, knives, tobacco, and other much-prized articles."

Although the external adventures of the Rattlesnake party were less varied and exciting than might have been expected in a voyage of four years in the tropic seas and among barbarian tribes, the mental adventures through which Huxley passed in the time must have been of the most surprising kind. It was a four-years' course in the great university of nature, and when he had finished it he was no longer a mere student, capricious and unsettled in his mental tastes and inclinations, but had set his face steadily towards his future life-work. It is interesting to compare the importance in Huxley's life of the Rattlesnake voyage with the importance in Darwin's life of the voyage on the Beagle undertaken some fifteen years earlier. Huxley, when he started, was a young surgeon with a taste of a vague kind for dissecting and for drawing the peculiarities of structure of different animals revealed by the knife and the microscope. Day after day, month after month, year after year, in the abundant leisure his slight professional duties left him, he dissected and drew, dissected and drew, animal after animal, as he got them from the dredge or tow-net, or from the surface of the coral reefs. He was not in any sense of the word a collecting naturalist. The identification and naming of species interested him little. What he cared for was, he tells us, "the architectural and engineering part of the business: the working out of the wonderful unity of plan in the thousands and thousands of divers living constructions, and the modifications of similar apparatuses to serve different ends." And so, on the Rattlesnake, and in his work in continuation of the Rattlesnake investigations,—which occupied most of his time for a few years after his return to London,—there was gradually growing up in his mind a dim conception of the animal kingdom as a group of creatures, not built on half a dozen or more separate plans or types, each unconnected with the other, but as a varied set of modifications of a single type.

When Darwin set out on the Beagle, unlike Huxley, he was an enthusiastic collecting naturalist. He had wandered from county to county in England adding new specimens to his collections of butterflies and beetles. As the Beagle went round the world visiting remote islands, far from land in the centre of the waters, archipelagoes of islands crowding together, islands hugging the shore of continents, and the great continents of the old and new worlds, he continued to collect and to classify. Gradually the resemblances and differences between the creatures inhabiting different parts of the earth began to strike him as exhibiting an orderly plan. He saw that under apparently the same conditions of food and temperature and moisture, in different parts of the world the genera and species were different, and that they were most alike in regions between which there was the most recent chance of migrations having taken place. In the quietness of England, while Huxley was on the Rattlesnake, Darwin was slowly working towards the explanation of all he had seen: towards the conception that animals and plants had spread slowly from common centres, becoming more and more different from each other as they spread. He realised on his voyage that species had come into existence by descent with modification, and before long he was to publish to the world in the Origin of Species a vast and convincing bulk of evidence as to the actual fact of a common descent for all the different existing organisms, and, in his theory of natural selection, a reasonable explanation of how the fact of evolution had come about. Darwin's greatest ally in bringing the new idea before the world was Huxley, and Huxley was teaching himself the absolute unity of the living world. The two men were dissimilar in tastes and temperament, and they were at work on quite different sides of nature. When the time came, Huxley, with his commanding knowledge of the structure of animals, was ready to support Darwin and to illustrate and amplify his arguments by a thousand anatomical proofs. It is a curious and dramatic coincidence to realise that both men learned their very different lessons under very similar circumstances in the tropical seas of the Southern Hemisphere.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote B: Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. "Rattlesnake," by John MacGillivray, F.R.G.S. 2 vols. T.W. Boone, London, 1852.]

[Footnote C: This sketch was reproduced and described in Natural Science, vol. vii., p. 381, and is now reproduced here by the courtesy of the proprietors.]



CHAPTER III

FLOATING CREATURES OF THE SEA

The Nature of Floating Life—Memoir on Medusae Accepted by the Royal Society—Old and New Ideas of the Animal Kingdom—What Huxley Discovered in Medusae—His Comparison of them with Vertebrate Embryos.

As the Rattlesnake sailed through the tropical seas Huxley came in contact with the very peculiar and interesting inhabitants of the surface of the sea, known now to naturalists as pelagic life or "plankton." Although a poet has spoken of the "unvintageable sea," all parts of the ocean surface teem with life. Sometimes, as in high latitudes, the cold is so great that only the simplest microscopic forms are able to maintain existence. In the tropics, animals and plants are abundant, and sometimes by their numbers colour great areas of water; or, as in the drift of the Gulf Stream, make a tangle of animal and plant life through which a boat travels only with difficulty. The basis of the food supply of this vast and hungry floating life is, as on land, vegetable life; for plants are the only creatures capable of building up food from the gases of the air and the simple chemical salts found dissolved in water. Occasionally, in shallow or warm seas, marine floating plants, large and visible like the sea-weeds of the coast, form the floating masses known as Sargasso seas; more often the plants are minute, microscopic specks visible only when a drop of water is placed under the microscope, but occurring in incredible numbers, and, like the green vegetation of the earth, forming the ultimate food-supply of all the living things around them. Innumerable animals, great and small, live on the plants or upon their fellows, and, however far he may be from land, the naturalist has always abundant material got by his daily use of the tow-net. This drifting population floats at the mercy of the waves. Most of the animals are delicate, transparent creatures, their transparency helping to protect them from the attacks of hungry fellows. Nerves, muscles, skin, and the organs generally are clear, pale, and hardly visible. Such structures as the liver, the reproductive organs, and the stomach, which cannot easily become transparent, are grouped together into small knots, coloured brown like little masses of sea-weed. Other floating creatures are vividly coloured, but the hues are bright blues and greens closely similar to the sparkling tints of sea-water in sunlight. The different members of this marine flotsam frequently rise and fall periodically: some of them sinking by day to escape the light, others rising only by day; others, again, appearing on the surface in spring, keeping deep down in winter. Perhaps the majority of them are phosphorescent, sometimes shining by their own light, sometimes borrowing a glory from innumerable phosphorescent bacteria with which they are infested. Nearly every class of the animal kingdom contributes members to this strange population. The young forms of many fish, as for instance of conger, flying gurnards, and some flatfish, are pelagic and have colourless blood, and pale, transparent, gelatinous or cartilaginous skeletons. The tadpole-like stages of the sea-squirts, which in adult life are to be found attached to rocks like weeds, drift about in the surface waters until their time comes for settling down in life. Many other Ascidians pass their whole life as pelagic creatures. A few molluscs, many kinds of worms, echinoderms, and their allies, crab and lobster-like creatures in innumerable different stages of development, are to be found there, while unnumbered polyps and jelly-fish are always present. It would be difficult to imagine a better training for the naturalist than to spend years, as Huxley did, working at this varied assortment of living creatures. Huxley declared that the difficulties of examining such flimsy creatures had been exaggerated.

"At least, with a good light and a good microscope, with the ship tolerably steady, I never failed in procuring all the information I required. The great matter is to obtain a good successive supply of specimens, as the more delicate oceanic species are usually unfit for examination within a few hours after they are taken."

Day after day, as the Rattlesnake crept from island to island, Huxley examined the animals brought up by his tow-net. He made endless dissections, and gradually accumulated a large portfolio of drawings. Much of the time he passed at Sydney was spent in libraries and museums, comparing his own observations with the recorded observations of earlier workers, and receiving from the combination of his own work and the work of others new ideas for his future investigations. It was all entirely a labour of love; it lay outside the professional duties by which he made his living, and for a long time it seemed as if he was not even to gain reputation by the discoveries he knew himself to be making. He writes in his autobiography:

"During the four years of our absence, I sent home communication after communication to the 'Linnaean' Society, with the same result as that obtained by Noah when he sent the raven out of his ark. Tired at last of hearing nothing about them, I determined to do or die, and in 1849 I drew up a more elaborate paper and forwarded it to the Royal Society. This was my dove, if I had only known it; but owing to the movements of the ship I heard nothing of that either until my return to England in the latter end of the year 1850, when I found that it was printed and published, and that a huge packet of separate copies awaited me. When I hear some of my young friends complain of want of sympathy and encouragement, I am inclined to think that my naval life was not the least valuable part of my education."

This first successful paper was a memoir On the Anatomy and the Affinities of the Family of Medusae, and was sent at Captain Stanley's suggestion to that officer's father, the Bishop of Norwich, who communicated it to the Royal Society. It is a curious circumstance that Huxley, who afterwards met with so virulent opposition from bishops, owed his first public success to one of them. Professor Sir Michael Foster writes of this period in Huxley's life:

"The career of many a successful man has shewn that obstacles often prove the mother of endeavour, and never was this lesson clearer than in the case of Huxley. Working amidst a host of difficulties, in want of room, in want of light, seeking to unravel the intricacies of minute structure with a microscope lashed to secure steadiness, cramped within a tiny cabin, jostled by the tumult of a crowded ship's life, with the scantiest supply of books of reference, with no one at hand of whom he could take counsel on the problems opening up before him, he gathered for himself during these four years a large mass of accurate, important, and in most cases novel, observations and illustrated them with skilful, pertinent drawings. Even his intellectual solitude had its good effects: it drove him to ponder over the new facts which came before him, and all his observations were made alive with scientific thought."

Afterwards, in England, he received the Royal Medal of the Royal Society for this memoir on Medusae, sharing this supreme distinction of scientific England with men so illustrious as Joule, the discoverer of the relation between force and heat, Stokes, the great investigator of optical physics, and Humboldt, the traveller, all of whom received medals in the same year. In making the presentation to Huxley, the Earl of Rosse, then President of the Royal Society, declared:

"In those papers you have for the first time fully developed their structure (that of the Medusae), and laid the foundation of a rational theory for their classification. In your second paper, on the anatomy of Salpa and Pyrosoma, the phenomena have received the most ingenious and elaborate elucidations, and have given rise to a process of reasoning, the results of which can scarcely yet be anticipated, but must bear in a very important degree upon some of the most abstruse points of what may be called transcendental physiology."

Many reasons make it difficult for us to realise, now, the singular novelty and importance of Huxley's memoir on the Medusae. The first is a reason which often prevents great discoveries in almost every subject from receiving in after years their due respect. The years that have passed since 1850 have seen not only the most amazing progress in our knowledge of comparative anatomy, but almost a revolution in the methods of studying it. Huxley's work has been incorporated in the very body of science. A large number of later investigators have advanced upon the lines he laid down; and just as the superstructures of a great building conceal the foundations, so later anatomical work, although it has only amplified and extended Huxley's discoveries, has made them seem less striking to the modern reader. The present writer, for instance, learned all that he knows of anatomy in the last ten years, and until he turned to it for the purpose of this volume he had never referred to Huxley's original paper. When he did so, he found from beginning to end nothing that was new to him, nothing that was strange: all the ideas in the memoir had passed into the currency of knowledge and he had been taught them as fundamental facts. It was only when he turned to the text-books of anatomy and natural history current in Huxley's time that he was able to realise how the conclusions of the young ship-surgeon struck the Fellows and President of the Royal Society as luminous and revolutionary ideas.

In the first half of the century, a conception of the animal kingdom prevailed which was entirely different from our modern ideas. We know now that all animals are bound together by the bond of a common descent, and we seek in anatomy a clue to the degrees of relationship existing among the different animals we know. We regard the animal kingdom as a thicket of branches all springing from a common root. Some of these spring straight up from the common root unconnected with their fellows. Others branch repeatedly, and all the branches of the same stem have features in common. What we see in the living world is only the surface of the thicket, the tops of the twigs; and it is by examination of the structure of this surface that we reconstruct in imagination the whole system of branches, and know that certain twigs, from their likeness, meet each other a little way down; that others are connected only very deep down, and that others, again, spring free almost from the beginning. The fossils of beds of rock of different geological ages give us incomplete views of the surface of the thicket of life, as it was in earlier times. These views we have of the past aspects of the animal kingdom are always much more incomplete than our knowledge of the existing aspect; partly because many animals, from the softness of their bodies, have left either no fossil remains at all, or only very imperfect casts of the external surfaces of their bodies; and partly because the turning of any animal into a fossil, and its subsequent discovery by a geologist, are occasional accidents; but, although the evidence is much less perfect than we could wish, there is enough of it to convince anatomists that existing animals are all in definite blood-relationship to each other, and to make them, in the investigation of any new animal, study its anatomy with the definite view of finding out its place in the family tree of the living world.

When Huxley made his first discoveries, entirely different ideas prevailed. The animal kingdom was supposed to offer a series of types, of moulds, into which the Creator at the beginning of the world had cast the substance of life. These types were independent of each other, and had been so since the beginning of things. Anatomists were concerned chiefly with systematic work, with detecting and recording the slight differences that existed among the numbers of animals grouped around each type. No attempt was made to see connection between type and type, for where these had been separately created there was nothing to connect them except possibly some idea in the mind of the Creator. This apparently barren attitude to nature was stronger in men's minds because it had inspired the colossal achievements of Cuvier, a genius who, under whatever misconceptions he had worked, would have added greatly to knowledge. As we have seen in the first chapter, Huxley, through Wharton Jones, and through his own reading, had been brought under the more modern German thought of Johannes Mueller and Von Baer. He had learned to study the problems of living nature in the spirit of a physicist making investigations into dead nature. In the anatomy of animals, as in the structure of rocks and crystals, there were to be sought out "laws of growth" and shaping and moulding influences which accounted for the form of the structures. To use the technical term, he was a morphologist: one who studied the architecture of animals not merely in a spirit of admiring wonder, but with the definite idea of finding out the guiding principles which had determined these shapes.

Not only was the prevailing method of investigation faulty, but actual knowledge of a large part of the animal kingdom was extremely limited. In the minds of most zooelogists the animal kingdom was divided into two great groups: the vertebrates and invertebrates. The vertebrate, or back-boned, animals were well known; comparatively speaking they are all built upon the type of man; and human anatomists, who indeed made up the greater number of all anatomists, using their exact knowledge of the human body, had studied many other vertebrates with minute care, and, from man to fishes, had arranged living vertebrates very much in the modern order. But the invertebrates were a vague and ill-assorted heap of animals. It was not recognised that among them there were many series of different grades of ascending complexity, and there was no well-known form to serve as a standard of comparison for all the others in the fashion that the body of man served as a standard of comparison for all vertebrates. Here and there, a few salient types such as insects and snails had been picked out, but knowledge of them helped but little with a great many of the invertebrates. The great Linnaeus had divided the animal kingdom into four groups of vertebrates: mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes, but for the invertebrates he had done no more than to pick out the insects as one group and to call everything else "Vermes" or worms. The insects included all creatures possessed of an external skeleton or hard skin divided into jointed segments, and included forms so different as insects, spiders, crabs, and lobsters. But Vermes included all the members of the animal kingdom that were neither vertebrates nor insects. Cuvier advanced a little. He got rid of the comprehensive title Vermes—the label of the rubbish-heap of zooelogists. He divided animals into four great subkingdoms: Vertebrates, Mollusca, Articulata, Radiata. These names, however, only covered very superficial resemblances among the animals designated by them. The word Mollusca only meant that the creatures grouped together had soft bodies, unsupported by internal or external articulated skeletons; and this character, or, rather, absence of character, was applied alike to many totally dissimilar creatures. The term Articulata included not only Linnaeus's insects but a number of soft-skinned, apparently jointed, worm-like animals such as the leech and earthworm. Lastly, the name Radiata meant no more than that the organs of the creatures so designated were more or less disposed around a centre, as the sepals and petals of a flower are grouped around the central pistil; and it included animals so different as the starfish and sea-anemones and Medusae. The names used in the classification were not only loosely applied but were based on the most superficial observation, and took no account of the intimate structures of the tissues and organs of the animals. With slight modifications, due to individual taste or special knowledge of small groups, later writers had followed Linnaeus and Cuvier.

It was with a view of the animal kingdom not much clearer than this that Huxley began his work on the Medusae of the tropic seas. He began to study them no doubt simply because they were among the most abundant of the animals that could be obtained from the ship. He made endless dissections and drawings, and, above all, studied their minute anatomy with the microscope. They were all placed among Cuvier's Radiata, but, as Huxley said in the first line of his memoir:

"Perhaps no class of animals has been investigated with so little satisfactory and comprehensive result, and this not for the want of patience and ability on the part of the observers, but rather because they have contented themselves with stating matters of detail concerning particular genera and species, instead of giving broad and general views of the whole class, considered as organised upon a given type, and inquiring into its relations with other families."

He found that fully developed Medusae consisted each of a disc with tentacles and vesicular bodies at the margins, a stomach, and canals proceeding from it, and generative organs. He traced this simple common structure through the complications and modifications in which it appeared in the different groups of Medusae, in all this work bringing out the prevailing features of the anatomy in contrast to the individual peculiarities. He shewed that microscopically all the complicated systems of canals and organs were composed of two "foundation-membranes," two thin webs of cells, one of which formed the outermost layer of the body, while the inner formed the lining of the stomach and canals in the thinner parts of the body, such as the edges of the umbrella-like disc, and towards the ends of the tentacles. These thin webs formed practically all the body. In the thicker parts there was interposed between them an almost structureless layer of jelly, placed like padding between the lining and the cloth of a coat. He shewed that blood-vessels and blood were absent, in which he has been confirmed by all other observers. He declared more doubtfully against the existence of a special nervous system, and it was not until long after, when the methods of microscopic investigation were much more perfect, that the delicate nerve-cells and nerve-fibres, which we now know to exist, were discovered.

Having thus shewn the peculiar organisation of the group he turned to seek out its allies among other families. The Medusae consisted essentially of two membranes inclosing a variously shaped cavity inasmuch as all its organs were so composed. The generative organs were external, being variously developed processes of the two membranes. The peculiar organs called thread-cells—poisoned darts by the discharge of which prey could be paralysed—were universally present. What other families presented these peculiarities?

There are to be found abundantly in sea-water, and less frequently in fresh water, innumerable forms of animal life called Zooephytes or animal plants because they occur as encrusting masses like lichens, or branched forests like moss, on the surface of stones and shells. A common habit gave this set of creatures their common name; but, although they were grouped together, there was no greater affinity among them than there is racial affinity among people who clothe themselves for an evening party in the same conventional dress. Huxley examined a large number of these, and picked out from them two great families of polyps, the Hydroid and Sertularian polyps, which each consist of colonies of creatures very much like the little fresh-water hydra. He shewed that the tubular body of these and the ring of tentacles surrounding the mouth were composed of the same two foundation-membranes of which all the organs of Medusae are composed. He found in them the poisoned arrows or thread-cells of the Medusae, and the same external position of the reproductive organs. And, lastly, he separated from all other creatures, and associated with his new group, some of the strangest and most beautiful animals of the tropic seas, known to science as the Physophoridae and the Diphyidae. The best-known of these is the "Portuguese man-of-war," the body of which consists of a large pear-shaped vesicle which floats on the water like a bladder. From the lower part of this depend into the water large and small nutritive branches, each ending in a mouth surrounded by a circle of waving tentacles armed with batteries of thread-cells, while another set of hanging protrusions bear the grape-like reproductive organs. On the upper surface of the bladder is fixed a purple sail of the most brilliant colour, by which the floating creature is blown through the water. When the weather is rough, the bladder empties, and the creature sinks down into the quiet water below the waves, to rise again when the storm is over. This, and its equally wonderful allies, Huxley showed to be a complicated colony of hydra-like creatures, each part being composed of two membranes, and therefore essentially similar to Medusae. Thus, by a great piece of constructive work, an assemblage of animals was gathered into a new group and shewn to be organised upon one simple and uniform plan, and, even in the most complex and aberrant forms, reducible to the same type. The group, and Huxley's conception of its structure, are now absolutely accepted by anatomists, and have made one of the corner-stones of our modern idea of the arrangement of the animal kingdom. With the exception of sponges, concerning the exact relations of which there is still dispute, and of a few sets of parasitic and possibly degenerate creatures, all animals, the bodies of which are multicellular, from the simple fresh-water hydra up to man, are divided into two great groups. The structure of the simpler of these groups is exactly what Huxley found to be of importance in the Medusae. The body wall, from which all the organs protrude, consists merely of a web of cells arranged in two sheets or membranes, and the single cavity consists of a central stomach, surrounded by these membranes, the cavity remaining simple or giving rise to a number of branching canals. The members of this great division of the animal kingdom are the creatures which Huxley selected and placed together, with the addition of the sea-anemones and the medusa-like Ctenophora, which, indeed, he mentioned in his memoir as being related to the others, but reserved fuller consideration for a future occasion. This group is now called the Coelenterata, the name implying that the creatures are simply hollow stomachs, and it is contrasted in the strongest way with the group Coelomata, in which are placed all the higher animals, from the simplest worm up to man; animals in which, in addition to the two foundation-membranes of the Coelenterata, there is a third foundation-membrane, and in which, in addition to the simple stomach cavity with its offshoots, there is a true body-cavity or coelome, and usually a set of spaces and channels containing a blood-fluid. The older method of naming groups of animals after some obvious superficial character lingered on for some years in text-books and treatises, but in this memoir the young ship-surgeon had replaced it by the modern scientific method of grouping animals together only because of real identity of structure.

There is yet left to be noticed perhaps the most wonderful of all the ideas in this first memoir by Huxley. In the course of describing the two foundation membranes of the Medusae he remarks:

"It is curious to remark, that throughout, the outer and inner membranes appear to bear the same physiological relation to one another as do the serous and mucous layers of the germ: the outer becoming developed into the muscular system, and giving rise to the organs of offence and defence: the inner on the other hand appearing to be more closely subservient to the purposes of nutrition and generation."

In the whole range of science it would be difficult to select an utterance more prophetic of future knowledge than these few words. Huxley had been reading the investigations of Von Baer into the early development of back-boned animals. He had learned from them the great generalisation, that the younger stages of these animals resemble one another more closely than the adult stages, and that in an early stage in the development of all these animals the beginning of the embryo consists of two layers of cells, in fact of two foundation-membranes, one forming specially the wall of the future digestive canal, the other forming the most external portion of the future animal. In these days nothing could have seemed a remoter or more unlikely comparison than one instituted between Medusae and the embryonic stages of back-boned animals. But Huxley made it, not allowing the evidence brought before his reason to be swamped by preconceived ideas. At the time he did no more than to make the comparison. It was much later that the full importance of it became known, when more extended work on the embryology of vertebrates and of the different groups of the invertebrates had made it plain that the two foundation-membranes of Huxley occur in all animals from the Medusae up to man. In the group of Coelenterata the organisation remains throughout life as nothing more than a folding in and folding out of these membranes. The early stages of all the higher animals similarly consist of complications of the two membranes; but later on there is added to them a third membrane. Thus the group that Huxley gathered together comprises those animals that as adults remain in a condition of development which is passed through in the embryonic life of all higher animals. The immense importance of this conclusion becomes plain, and the conclusion itself seems obvious, when seen in the light of the doctrine of descent. The group of Coelenterata represents a surviving, older condition in the evolution of animals. Huxley himself, when on the Rattlesnake, regarded evolution only as a vague metaphysical dream, and he made the comparison which has been described without any afterthought of what it implied. In this we have the earliest authentic instance of the peculiar integrity of mind which was so characteristic of him in his dealings with philosophy and tradition. He never allowed any weight of authority or any apparent disturbance of existing ideas to alter the conclusions to which his reason led him. This intellectual courage made him fitted to be the leader in the battle for evolution and against traditional thought, and we shall find again and again in consideration of his work that it was the keynote of his life.



CHAPTER IV

EARLY DAYS IN LONDON

Scientific Work as Unattached Ship-Surgeon—Introduction to London Scientific Society—Translating, Reviewing, and Lecturing—Ascidians—Molluscs and the Archetype—Criticism of Pre-Darwinian Evolution—Appointment to Geological Survey.

The Rattlesnake was paid off at Chatham on November 9, 1850. In the natural course of events Huxley would have been appointed before long to active service upon another ship. But he had no intention of relapsing into the position of a mere navy doctor; he had accumulated sufficient scientific material to keep him employed on scientific investigation for years, and so he applied to the Admiralty to "be borne on the books" of H.M.S. Fisgard at Woolwich,—that is to say, to be appointed assistant-surgeon to the ship "for particular service," so that he should not be compelled to live on board, but might remain in town, and, with free access to libraries and museums, work up the observations he had made on the Rattlesnake into serious and substantial contributions to science. His request was granted, largely by the aid of his old chief, Sir W. Burnett, who continued to take the most useful interest in the young man he had originally nominated to the service. In a letter to him Huxley described the investigations which he desired to continue as being chiefly those on "the anatomy of certain Gasteropod and Pteropod Mollusca, of Firola and Atlantis, of Salpa and Pyrosoma, of two new Ascidians, namely, Appendicularia and Doliolum, of Sagitta and certain Annelids, of the auditory and circulatory organs of certain transparent Crustacea, and of the Medusae and Polyps." His request was granted, and for the next three years Huxley lived in London with his brother, on the exiguous income of an assistant-surgeon, and devoted himself to research. He became almost at once of the first rank among English anatomists. The result of the paper on Medusae in the Transactions of the Royal Society was that he was elected a Fellow of the Society on June 5, 1851, and a year later received a Royal Medal of the Society. He made many warm friendships both among the older and the younger generations of scientific men. In his obituary notice of Huxley, Sir Michael Foster wrote:

"By Edward Forbes, in whose nature there was much that was akin to his own, and with whom he had some acquaintance before his voyage, he was at once greeted as a comrade, and with Joseph Dalton Hooker, to whom he was drawn at the very first by their common experience as navy surgeons, he began an attachment which, strengthened by like biological aspirations, grew closer as their lives went on. In the first year after his return, in the autumn of 1851, he made the acquaintance of John Tyndall at the meeting of the British Association at Ipswich, and the three, Hooker, Huxley, and Tyndall, finding how much in common were all their scientific views and desires, formed then and there a triple scientific alliance."

Repeated efforts were made by these three, and by more influential friends, to induce the Admiralty to contribute to the expense of publishing Huxley's scientific results, as they had given a pledge to encourage officers who had done scientific work. These efforts lasted unavailingly for nearly three years, and then, as Huxley says: "The Admiralty, getting tired, I suppose, cut short the discussion by ordering me to join a ship, which thing I declined to do, and, as Rastignac, in the Pere Goriot, says to Paris, I said to London, a nous deux." This light phrase conceals a courageous and momentous decision. He was absolutely without private resources, and having abandoned his professional work he had no salary of any kind. For a year or so he supported himself by writing reviews and popular scientific articles, striving all the time not only to gain his bread but to continue his scientific work and make it known to the public. He desired to get a professorship of physiology or of comparative anatomy, and as vacancies occurred he applied, but unsuccessfully. At the same time, he tells us, he and his friend, John Tyndall, were

"candidates, he for the Chair of Physics, and I for that of Natural History in the University of Toronto, which, fortunately, as it turned out, would not look at either of us. I say fortunately, not from any lack of respect for the University of Toronto; but because I soon made up my mind that London was the place for me, and hence I have steadily declined the inducements to leave it which have at various times been offered."

In these early years in London Huxley's work was most varied. A large number of anonymous articles by him appeared in the Literary Gazette, and in other periodicals. He assisted to remove the insular narrowness from English scientific work by translating many foreign memoirs. With the collaboration of Mr. Henfrey, he edited a series of scientific memoirs, all of which were translated from foreign languages, and many by his own pen. With the assistance of Mr. George Busk he made a translation of Koelliker's Histology, a great treatise on microscopic anatomy which played a large part in the development of the modern English schools of anatomy and physiology. He made some valuable contributions to Todd and Bowman's Cyclopaedia of Anatomy, an elaborate publication now nearly forgotten and practically superseded, but which was the standard anatomical work of the middle of this century. He was unable to progress rapidly with his work upon oceanic Medusae, as he was uncertain how to have it published; the Admiralty refused to assist, and it was too lengthy for publication in the volumes of the learned Societies. As a matter of fact, he did not publish it until 1858, when it appeared as a separate memoir. To the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science and to the Transactions of the Royal and Linnaean Societies he contributed a large number of memoirs dealing with the microscopic anatomy and relationships of invertebrates, and, lastly, he gave a series of addresses at the Royal Institution, which had been founded as a means by which leading men of science might give accounts of their work to London society. Abstracts of these lectures are published in the early volumes of the Proceedings of the Royal Institution and are interesting as shewing the kinds of zooelogical subjects which were attracting the attention of Huxley and which he considered of sufficient interest and importance to bring to the notice of the general public. The first of these lectures, and probably the first given in public by Huxley, occurred on April 30, 1852, and was entitled "Animal Individuality." The problem as to what is meant by an individual had been raised in his mind by consideration of many of the forms of marine life, notably compound structures like the Portuguese man-of-war, and creatures like the salps, which form floating chains often many yards in length. He explained that the word individual covers at least three quite different kinds of conceptions. There is, first, what he described as arbitrary individuality, an individuality which is given by the mind of the observer and does not actually exist in the thing considered. Thus a landscape is in a sense an individual thing, but only so far as it is a particular part of the surface of the earth, isolated for the time in the mind of the person looking at it. If the observer shift his position, the range of the landscape alters and becomes something else. Next there are material, or practically accidental individual things, such as crystals or pieces of stone; and, lastly, there are living individuals which, as he pointed out, were cycles. All living things are born into the world, grow up, and die, and it was to the cycle of life, from the egg to the adult which produces eggs, that he gave the name individual. In a simple animal like Hydra there is no difficulty in accepting this plain definition of individuality; but Huxley went on to compare with Hydra a compound creature like the Portuguese man-of-war, which really is composed of a colony of Hydra-like creatures, the different members of the colony being more or less altered to serve different functions. All these have come from the branching of a single simple creature produced from an egg, and to the whole colony Huxley gave the name of zooelogical individual. The salps give a still wider interpretation to this view of individuality. The original salp produced from the egg gives rise to many salps, which may either remain attached in a chain, or, breaking away from one another, may live separately. Huxley extended the use of the word individual so as to include as a single zooelogical individual the whole set of creatures cohering in chains or breaking apart, which had been produced by budding from the product of a single egg-cell. This subtle analysis of ideas delighted and interested his contemporaries, and the train of logical examination of what is meant by individuality has persisted to the present time. Like all other zooelogical ideas, this has been considerably altered by the conception of evolution. Zooelogists no longer attempt to stretch logical conceptions until they fit enormous and different parts of the living world. They recognise that the living world, because it is alive, is constantly changing, and that living things pass through different stages or kinds of individuality in the course of their lives. A single egg-cell is one kind, perhaps the simplest kind, of zooelogical individual; when it has grown up into a simple polyp it has passed into a second grade of individuality; when, by budding, the polyp has become branched, a third grade is reached, and when the branches have become different, in obedience to the different purposes which they are to serve in the whole compound creature, a still further grade is reached. Huxley's attempt to find a meaning for individuality that would apply equally to a single simple creature, to a compound creature, and to the large number of separate creatures, all developed by budding from one creature, is a striking instance of his singular capacity for bringing apparently dissimilar facts into harmony, by finding out the common underlying principle, and, although we no longer accept this particular conclusion, we cannot fail to notice in it the peculiar powers of his mind.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse