Huxley was one of the most important figures in the Industrial Revolution in terms of popularizing and professionalizing science. Generally known by his initials, T.H., he played a key role in gaining popular acceptance for his friend Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. His extensive writing and lectures were provocative and often simplified complex scientific issues in order to gain the attention of the general public. He founded a leading scientific journal, Nature, which is still very influential today. He also encouraged educational institutions, which had traditionally focused on literature and the classics, to include science among their curriculums. He was called the “evangelist of science”, and his lectures often drew audiences of thousands. At one point he believed that evolution was a brutal struggle between individuals and nations, but in the end he came to believe that society grows through the natural selection of the ethically best individuals.
The youngest of his schoolmaster father’s six children, Huxley had only sporadic formal education, including a scholarship to Charing Cross Hospital. Always short of money, Huxley was engaged for eight years before he could afford to marry his Australian fiancée. His constant work caused frequent breakdowns, perhaps accelerated by the burden of supporting his brother and sister’s families. His daughter went mad, but his son was a successful editor, and his grandchildren included two prominent biologists and the author of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. In one of the great ironies of history, T.H. Huxley helped make the general public aware of the power and potential benefits of science; his grandson, Aldous, who originally wanted to be a scientist before becoming a writer, helped make the general public aware of the dangers of science and technology.