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Thomas Henry Huxley

Geburtstag: 4. Mai 1825
Todesdatum: 29. Juni 1895
Andere Namen:Thomas Huxley

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Thomas Henry Huxley war ein britischer Biologe, Bildungsorganisator und Hauptvertreter des Agnostizismus, dessen Begriff er prägte und durchsetzte. Als einflussreicher Unterstützer des Empirismus David Humes und der Evolutionstheorie Charles Darwins hatte er zusätzlich zu seinen eigenen umfangreichen Forschungen, Lehrbüchern und Essays sehr großen Einfluss auf die Entwicklung der Naturwissenschaften im 19. Jahrhundert.

Zitate Thomas Henry Huxley

„Die große Tragödie der Wissenschaft - die Erledigung einer wunderschönen Hypothese durch eine häßliche Tatsache.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Presidential Address at the British Association for 1870, "Biogenesis and Abiogenesis" (Collected Essays, vol. 8)

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„A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there was an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man — a man of restless and versatile intellect — who not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them with aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice. One account of his famous response to Samuel Wilberforce, who during a debate had sarcastically questioned: "whether he was descended from an ape on his grandmother's side or his grandfather's" (30 June 1860), as quoted in Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley F.R.S (1900) edited by Leonard Huxley. There were no precise transcripts of this exchange made at the time, but only various accounts which were made afterwards, in the journals and memoirs of others. Other accounts assert that after Wilberforce's query he declared to Sir Benjamin Brodie "The Lord hath delivered him into my hands" rose from his seat, gave a thorough defense of Darwin's theories, and at the end concluded: "I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth." If the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who employs these faculties and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape. Response, as quoted in Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977) by Alan L. Mackay. The Bishop rose, and in a light scoffing tone, florid and he assured us there was nothing in the idea of evolution; rock-pigeons were what rock-pigeons had always been. Then, turning to his antagonist with a smiling insolence, he begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey? On this Mr Huxley slowly and deliberately arose. A slight tall figure stern and pale, very quiet and very grave, he stood before us, and spoke those tremendous words — words which no one seems sure of now, nor I think, could remember just after they were spoken, for their meaning took away our breath, though it left us in no doubt as to what it was. He was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth. No one doubted his meaning and the effect was tremendous. One lady fainted and had to carried out: I, for one, jumped out of my seat; and when in the evening we met at Dr Daubeney's, every one was eager to congratulate the hero of the day. Another account, by Mrs. Isabella Sidgwick in "A Grandmother's Tales"; Macmillan's Magazine LXXVIII, No. 468 (October 1898)

„The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage. If knowledge is real and genuine, I do not believe that it is other than a very valuable possession, however infinitesimal its quantity may be. Indeed, if a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger? [http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/ElPhys.html "On Elementary Instruction in Physiology" (1877)]

„The row was over Darwinism, but before it ended Darwinism was almost forgotten. What Huxley fought for was something far greater: the right of civilized men to think freely and speak freely, without asking leave of authority, clerical or lay.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: The row was over Darwinism, but before it ended Darwinism was almost forgotten. What Huxley fought for was something far greater: the right of civilized men to think freely and speak freely, without asking leave of authority, clerical or lay. How new that right is! And yet how firmly held! Today it would be hard to imagine living without it. No man of self-respect, when he has a thought to utter, pauses to wonder what the bishops will have to say about it. The views of bishops are simply ignored. Yet only sixty years ago they were still so powerful that they gave Huxley the battle of his life. H. L. Mencken in "Thomas Henry Huxley" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925)

„The history of the development of any“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: The student of development finds, not only that the chick commences its existence as an egg, primarily identical, in all essential respects, with that of the Dog, but that the yelk of this egg undergoes division—that the primitive groove arises, and that the contiguous parts of the germ are fashioned, by precisely similar methods into a young chick, which, at one stage of its existence, is so like the nascent Dog, that ordinary inspection would hardly distinguish the two. The history of the development of any other vertebrate animal, Lizard, Snake, Frog, or Fish, tells the same story. Ch.2, p. 79

„When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis," — had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took.

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„His voice was low, clear and distinct... Professor Huxley's method is slow, precise, and clear, and he guards the positions that he takes with astuteness and ability.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: His voice was low, clear and distinct... Professor Huxley's method is slow, precise, and clear, and he guards the positions that he takes with astuteness and ability. He does not utter anything in reckless fashion which conviction sometimes countenances and excuses, but rather with the deliberation that research and close inquiry foster. Newspaper account of speech at opening of Johns Hopkins University (13 September 1876), quoted in The Great Influenza : The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History (2005) by John M. Barry, p. 13

„In an ideal University, as I conceive it, a man should be able to obtain instruction in all forms of knowledge, and discipline in the use of all the methods by which knowledge is obtained.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: In an ideal University, as I conceive it, a man should be able to obtain instruction in all forms of knowledge, and discipline in the use of all the methods by which knowledge is obtained. In such a University, the force of living example should fire the student with a noble ambition to emulate the learning of learned men, and to follow in the footsteps of the explorers of new fields of knowledge. And the very air he breathes should be charged with that enthusiasm for truth, that fanaticism of veracity, which is a greater possession than much learning; a nobler gift than the power of increasing knowledge; by so much greater and nobler than these, as the moral nature of man is greater than the intellectual; for veracity is the heart of morality. Universities, Actual and Ideal (1874)

„History shows that the human mind, fed by constant accessions of knowledge, periodically grows too large for its theoretical coverings, and bursts them asunder to appear in new habiliments“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: In a well worn metaphor, a parallel is drawn between the life of man and the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly; but the comparison may be more just as well as more novel, if for its former term we take the mental progress of the race. History shows that the human mind, fed by constant accessions of knowledge, periodically grows too large for its theoretical coverings, and bursts them asunder to appear in new habiliments, as the feeding and growing grub, at intervals, casts its too narrow skin and assumes another, itself but temporary. Truly the imago state of Man seems to be terribly distant, but every moult is a step gained, and of such there have been many. Ch.2, p. 72

„The question of questions for mankind“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: The question of questions for mankind—the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other—is the ascertainment of the place which Man occupies in nature and of his relations to the universe of things. Ch.2, p. 71

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„The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin. And it cannot be otherwise, for every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority, the cherishing of the keenest scepticism, the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith; and the most ardent votary of science holds his firmest convictions, not because the men he most venerates hold them; not because their verity is testified by portents and wonders; but because his experience teaches him that whenever he chooses to bring these convictions into contact with their primary source, Nature — whenever he thinks fit to test them by appealing to experiment and to observation — Nature will confirm them. The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification. [http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext01/thx1410.txt On the advisableness of improving natural knowledge (1866)]

„I can assure you that there is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life. You learn that which is of inestimable importance — that there are a great many people in the world who are just as clever as you are.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: I can assure you that there is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life. You learn that which is of inestimable importance — that there are a great many people in the world who are just as clever as you are. You learn to put your trust, by and by, in an economy and frugality of the exercise of your powers, both moral and intellectual; and you very soon find out, if you have not found it out before, that patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness. [http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/MedEd.html "On Medical Education" (1870)]

„I do not mean to suggest that scientific differences should be settled by universal suffrage, but I do conceive that solid proofs must be met by something more than empty and unsupported assertions.“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: I do not mean to suggest that scientific differences should be settled by universal suffrage, but I do conceive that solid proofs must be met by something more than empty and unsupported assertions. Yet during the two years through which this preposterous controversy has dragged its weary length, Professor Owen has not ventured to bring forward a single preparation in support of his often-repeated assertions. The case stands thus, therefore: Not only are the statements made by me in consonance with the doctrines of the best older authorities, and with those of all recent investigators, but I am quite ready to demonstrate them on the first monkey that comes to hand; while Professor Owen's assertions are not only in diametrical opposition to both old and new authorities, but he has not produced, and, I will add, cannot produce, a single preparation which justifies them. A Succinct History of the Controversy respecting the Cerebral Structure of Man and the Apes, Evidence as to Man's place in Nature (1863)

„Our reverence for the nobility of manhood will not be lessened by the knowledge, that Man, is in substance and in structure, one with the brutes; for“

— Thomas Henry Huxley
Context: Our reverence for the nobility of manhood will not be lessened by the knowledge, that Man, is in substance and in structure, one with the brutes; for, he alone possesses the marvellous endowment of intelligible and rational speech, whereby, in the secular period of his existence, he has slowly accumulated and organized the experience which is almost wholly lost with the cessation of every individual life in other animals; so that now he stands raised upon it as on a mountain top, far above the level of his humble fellows, and transfigured from his grosser nature by reflecting, here and there, a ray from the infinite source of truth. Ch.2, p. 132

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