§ 11. Scientific Education

THH devoted his professorship to the Jermyn Street School of Mines, the mission of which he described in a letter to The Times in 1892: The Royal School of Mines, for which he continued administrative duties as Dean of the Royal College of Science of London.

The third volume of Collected Essays Huxley entitled Science and Education; see Preface III and Preface VIII. He was the primary agent in charge of converting British education from primary school through university so that it would include education in scientific fields; see, on introducing science into the curriculum, letter to Hooker–October 6, 1864. He accomplished this conversion through his popular papers and through administrative positions as a member of the London School Board, as Rector of Aberdeen, as Principal of the South London Working Man's College, and as President of the Geological Society, the British Association, and the Royal Society. In 1870, the year that Huxley won election to the London School Board, he was also appointed to a Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science. In its meetings during five years, this commission targeted failures in British scientific instruction as compared to the successes of other nations; its mandate was to protect British industrial success against advancing European, especially German, competition. The great universities of Oxford and Cambridge were far less advanced in scientific instruction and original research than the relatively tiny University of Heidelberg.

Huxley hoped to find in the 1874 edition of Descent of Man a hint of how sexual selection could aid in the "improvement of gutter-babies," which procedure would be presented to the School Board–February 20, 1871. Less of a joke was his advising Anton Dohrn that biology lectures to schoolmasters were given "with the view of converting them into scientific missionaries to convert the Christian heathen to the true faith"–July 7, 1871.

Huxley, who had learned German when he was a teenager and had begun serious scholarly investigation of German science upon his return to England (see, for example, his review The Cell Theory of 1853), was ready for his role as the foremost translator of German scientific interests and procedures into British education. He regularly corresponded with, and sometimes had as household guests, Anton Dohrn, Ernst Haeckel, Dr. Leuckart and other German biologists. In a letter to a correspondent who had suggested that Huxley read Nietzsche, Huxley replied that he would do so, though from German speculative writers, one does not expect great profit." As men of research in positive science they are magnificently laborious and accurate. But most of them have no notion of style, and seem to compose their books with a pitchfork"–March 23, 1894.

Educating people who were not scientists was an early objective of his, achieved through a scores of reviews for the Westminster Review on biological, physical, chemical, ethnological, and medical books; this present library contains selections from these reviews in Martineau, et al., Murchison, et al., Hooker, et al., Carpenter, et al., Brewster, et al., Hunt, et al., Kingsley, et al., Newton, et al., and Faraday, et al.. A picture of Victorian science emerges from these reviews. He also wrote in the fifties articles for the Saturday ReviewThe Clouds, Glaciers and Glacial Theory (1858), Structure of Glaciers (1859), The Theory of Glaciers (1859), The Glaciers of the Alps (1860). In Forbes and TyndallNature (1873) Huxley continued to trace the disagreement on glaciers between Principal James (not Edward) Forbes and John Tyndall; Huxley referred (anonymously) to himself as "an accomplished friend" and praised Tyndall against his glacial competitors–the "Structure of Glaciers." The articles for the two journals are anonymous.

Scientific Education: Notes of an After-dinner Speech (1869), opens with the observation that members of Parliament, working people and even clerics agree that scientific training is needful for getting on. The nation as well as the person who has such knowledge is more likely than others to succeed in the struggle for existence, "which goes on as fiercely beneath the smooth surface of modern society, as among the wild inhabitants of the woods." The first course for the nine year old children should be "physical geography," a general view of geology and geography, so that they will know what makes the moon shine, what the wind is, why waves appear in the sea, the habitats of animals and the uses of plants. This was soon followed by On Medical Education (1870), which subject continued to interest him throughout the rest of his life–Letter on Medical Education (1890). See Medical Times and Gazette comment:Professor Huxley on Medical Education (1871).

The London School Board's design of an Education Act in 1870 called for the production of science teachers for elementary schools. In 1865, Huxley gave lectures in elementary physiology, the lecture theater packed full–On Elementary Instruction in Physiology. The book Lessons in Elementary Physiology was first published in 1866, and enjoyed thirty printings by the end of the century. Huxley began a course in biology which emphasized laboratory work as more critical in producing these science teachers than exposing them to lectures and demonstrations and examinations. Huxley often insisted that it was necessary for medical students to have in their educational background exposure to general science, pointing out that even 10-14 year old children could learn physiology–address to St. Mary's Hospital (1866). Ten years later, in his lecture at Nashville, Testimony of the Rocks, he devoted about as much attention to the need for scientific education as to the investigation of strata. He drew plans for the ideal museum, which would contain laboratories and display specimens; comments on museums will be found in Scheme for a Museum (January 25, 1868), to the Commissioners of the Manchester Natural History Society and in a letter to Michael Foster–May 3, 1886.

Huxley's rectorship address at Aberdeen was entitled Universities: Actual and Ideal (1874); two commentaries on his being elected Rector of Aberdeen College appeared in Nature (November 1873), summarizing Huxley's propositions for what should and should not be taught to medical students–On the Medical Curriculum; and Professor Huxley at Aberdeen (1874). For an address he delivered at Owens College, see Professor Huxley at Manchester (Nature, October 1874).

Noble Swell
Having received Royal Society Medal
Fellow, Royal Society
Elected in 1851, 26 years old, for oceanic hydrozoa research
President BAAS
THH as President of the British Association, Nature 1874
Portrtait of a Gentleman
"If he only knew what his examiner was doing! N.B. He can't stand it any more & has just gone out."
Cartoon Portraits and Biographical Sketches
with cartoon of THH by Frederick Waddy, "Bones and Stones and Such-like Things" (1873)
John Collier painting of THH as President of the Royal Society, 1883
Darwin Medal
THH recipient of Darwin Medal of the Royal Society, 1894

Huxley's morning lecture took up an hour; the laboratory work in the afternoon occupied four hours. A laboratory of active laboratory physiological exploration was a rarity in England at the time; laboratory procedure is detailed throughout Huxley's A Course of Elementary Instruction in Practical Biology (1875); the selection in this present library is from an addition to a subsequent edition, on anatomizing a snail–Poulton, Elementary Instruction in Practical Biology (1888). From May to July of 1875, Huxley delivered a series of 54 lectures in Edinburgh, on the animal kingdom, which saw publication in the Medical Times and Gazette; he was much pleased with the size and exuberance of his Edinburgh audience, as noted in his letter to Jess–May 16, 1875. As President of the Quekett Microscopical Club, he delivered addresses on dissection and other procedures of investigation–The President's Address 1 (1878) and The President's Address 2 (1879)

According to one of his assistants, T. J. Parker, Huxley's was the first biological laboratory in Great Britain–Parker Account. Parker's is one among many reminiscences of Huxley's students on the brilliance of Huxley as teacher of biology–see also Mivart Account, Osborn Account, Howes Account, Foster Account, and Foster's A Few more Words on Thomas Henry Huxley (1895). Huxley's assistants themselves often went on to become instrumental in advancing scientific education in Britain; for example, Michael Foster inaugurated a school of physiology at Cambridge. In the years following 1870, such advances in scientific education were expressed in new courses at the major universities and in the founding of a score of new colleges and new technical schools. Teaching biology by lecture and demonstration alone became an anachronism. But the English government was far less willing than the German to assign satisfactory funding for the promotion of scientific education by scientists. (Huxley would not have approved this use of "scientists"–he thought that blend, like the word "electrocution," a defilement of the English language–"Scientist")

The State should be responsible for promoting scientific investigation, Huxley argued. Guilds, rather than the state, should be responsible for technical education. On the importance of technical education to the student and to the nation, Nature often commented: –Professor Huxley on the Duties of the State. (1871); Professor Huxley on Technical Education (1879); Scientific Federation (1887); Address to Salters' Company (November 1883); Finsbury Prizes (December 1883); and The Organization of Industrial Education. (March 1887); also see letter to Donnelly on technical education, February 16, 1885.

After a series of moderate successes in implementing Huxley's laboratory and teaching methods, appeared his The Connection of the Biological Sciences with Medicine (1881) and The State and the Medical Profession (1884), which reports on the establishment of a Medical Arts Commission, Huxley a member, to develop a General Medical Council which would effect state qualifications for licensing doctors. On sending one's child to a good university for majoring in science, Huxley's advice to a correspondent might be useful–June 10, 1892.

That theoretical guesses can have profound practical uses is a point raised in On the Study of Biology (1876). That disease may be infectious and that agriculture produce may be increased are results of investigations that led to theoretical guesses. The connection between practical work and scientific study is the point of a letter he wrote in 1891 to the Yorkshire HeraldLetter on Agriculture. In his biological laboratory, housed next door, Huxley points out that he selected a specimen, a fern, an amoeba, a squid, a rabbit for dissection so that the students could form a definite conception of the group represented by the specimen. (See Yeast (1871), Lobster (1861), The Crayfish: An Introduction to the Study of Zoology (1879) as works exemplifying this achievement.) Despite the claims of Russian and British "Peculiar People," disease and its cure are not the effects of divine interference, and science is no more blasphemous in assuaging them than it was in using chloroform in childbirth fifty years earlier. To Huxley, Louis Pasteur was so important a scientist and helper of the species that an English Pasteur Institute deserved comprehensive support from the government, both to honor Pasteur and to advance vaccination–June 25, 1889.

Technical Education (1877), a talk delivered to the Working Man's Club and Institute Union appropriately discusses handicraft education. He thought it unwise to keep handicraft boys at school beyond the age of fourteen. A response to this was by R. H. Hutton: Review of Technical Education(1877). Huxley returned to general technical education in Address on Behalf of the National Association for the Promotion of Technical Education (1887), in which he reflects upon the success of the London School Board that within seventeen years implicated its design for "a vast system of primary education." Huxley reflects that the part he played in that was the least wasted part of his life. He then calls attention to the "terrible battle of competition" resulting from unrestrained multiplication. Education will help the citizen as well as the nation survive in the struggle for existence.

In many papers, Huxley focused on one living being to illustrate general principles of geology or other sciences, in unpublished papers on the dog and the elephant and in published papers such as Letter to Mr. Tyndall on the Structure of Glacier Ice (1857), The Structure and Classification of the Mammalia (1864) and Animal Kingdom (1878), in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which offers a panoramic account of taxonomy as well as of physiology and embryonic development and the theory of evolution; other Britannica articles of relevance to scientific education for the people are a note, "Birds," in 1976; and three comprehensive pieces, Biology, Amphibia, and Evolution in Biology, which appeared later in Collected Essays 2.

Most of the text books used in the schools for medical and technical education were in German or translations of German. Another of Huxley's grand achievements was the production of at least nine text books in the language native to the British students. Among his most successful texts was Physiography, based on lectures given at the London Institution, attended by students, teachers, and Jess, Leonard, and Marian Huxley. Many of his readers found it, in the phrase of his family, a "priceless gem," 3000 copies being sold in six weeks. See Judd, Huxley's Physiography (1878).

Huxley was during his whole career interested in taxonomy. Some of his taxonomic inventions, such as Acalephæ (for jelly-fish and man-of-war) did not survive. Several of the following establish new taxonomies.

Clark Medal
Photograph by Lock and Whitfield, c. 1876
THH recipient of Clark Medal of Royal Society of New South Wales
Henry's Father
Photograph by Henry Huxley, c. 1881
THH President, Sanitary Protection Association, 1881
Dean Huxley
Pencil drawing by T.B. Wirgman, 1882
THH Dean of Normal School of Science, 1881-95
1890 (another?)

The Crayfish, which H. G. Wells thought "a masterpiece of intricate lucidity," was a poor seller. Huxley's Elementary Instructions in Practical Biology, first edition 1875, sold well; from its initial publication to 1887, when it went out of print, 25,000 copies were sold. Nature declared in 1888 that it "marked an epoch in biological education," Huxley's application of the German type system, using representative specimens rather than general abstractions, being critical for learning biology are features of A Course of Elementary Instruction in Practical Biology, asst. by H. N. Martin, rev. ed. (1892). He wrote of the importance of this procedure in a letter to Tyndall: June 4, 1872; see also Parker Account.

In On the Study of Biology (1876), Huxley goes on to express his annoyance with legislative efforts to outlaw vivisection. Though he himself does not approve of the infliction of unnecessary pain, it is regrettable that the law allows a boy to use a live frog for bait because the boy finds fishing amusing, but will fine a physiologist five pounds for his using a frog to demonstrate physiological processes. Huxley would comment several times in other essays and in letters on this issue: to Darwin–October 30, 1875; to Knowles, on a proposed agency to keep poodles happy, a "Society for the infliction of cruelty on people"–June 5, 1875; and to The TimesVivisection Bill (May 26, 1876). In response to this bill, Huxley, Foster, Francis Darwin, and fourteen other people formed the Physiological Society. Huxley commented again on vivisection in a letter of September 29, 1890.

Round my Garden
"(1) Charles suddenly fascinated by a new & elegant watering pot." "(2) Spends all his days and nights making love to her." See also Times letter-May 1876

On the importance of effecting a partnership between science and industry, see Huxley's published letters The Imperial Institute (Nature January 20, 1887), Institute (Times, March 21, 1887), and private February 20, 1887. An 1892 speech on designing the modern university begins with a contrast between that and the medieval university, the modern looking "to the future" and seeking "the knowledge of things," the only source for which "lies in the application of scientific methods of inquiry," while the medieval looked "to the past and sought book-learning," its view that the greater reality existed in the data of ancient writings. One of the great curriculum disciplines was science, which included not only the physical sciences and mathematics, but also logic, philosophy, and philology; the other was Art, which comprised "Literature, the pictorial and plastic art with Architecture, and Music"–University of London.

Strangely enough, he did not promote evolution as a subject necessary to education in science; the teacher should emphasize nature today rather than origins, though the teaching of evolution is more reasonable than the teaching of creationism–Prefatory Note to Ernst Haeckel, Freedom in Science and Teaching (1879). He did promote and often helped design new schools or new programs which paid due respect to science, among them the University of London, Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen University, Queen Mary College, Owens College, the International College, South London Working Men's College, City and Guilds College; and he was instrumental in placing his students as teachers.

In a letter of January 1, 1880, Huxley said that the two things he really cared about were the progress of scientific thought and lifting the poor out of their misery.

Privy Counselor
THH adorned in Privy Council court dress, 1892




1.   THH Publications
2.   Victorian Commentary
3.   20th Century Commentary

1.   Letter Index
2.   Illustration Index

Gratitude and Permissions

C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University

§ 1. THH: His Mark
§ 2. Voyage of the Rattlesnake
§ 3. A Sort of Firm
§ 4. Darwin's Bulldog
§ 5. Hidden Bond: Evolution
§ 6. Frankensteinosaurus
§ 7. Bobbing Angels: Human Evolution
§ 8. Matter of Life: Protoplasm
§ 9. Medusa
§ 10. Liberal Education
§ 11. Scientific Education
§ 12. Unity in Diversity
§ 13. Agnosticism
§ 14. New Reformation
§ 15. Verbal Delusions: The Bible
§ 16. Miltonic Hypothesis: Genesis
§ 17. Extremely Wonderful Events: Resurrection and Demons
§ 18. Emancipation: Gender and Race
§ 19. Aryans et al.: Ethnology
§ 20. The Good of Mankind
§ 21.  Jungle Versus Garden