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The Present Condition of Organic Nature   By: (1825-1895)

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THE PRESENT CONDITION OF ORGANIC NATURE

Lecture I. (of VI.), "Lectures To Working Men", at the Museum of Practical Geology, 1863, On Darwin's work: "Origin of Species".

By Thomas H. Huxley

EDITOR'S NOTE

Of the great thinkers of the nineteenth century, Thomas Henry Huxley, son of an Ealing schoolmaster, was undoubtedly the most noteworthy. His researches in biology, his contributions to scientific controversy, his pungent criticisms of conventional beliefs and thoughts have probably had greater influence than the work of any other English scientist. And yet he was a "self made" intellectualist. In spite of the fact that his father was a schoolmaster he passed through no regular course of education. "I had," he said, "two years of a pandemonium of a school (between eight and ten) and after that neither help nor sympathy in any intellectual direction till I reached manhood." When he was twelve a craving for reading found satisfaction in Hutton's "Geology," and when fifteen in Hamilton's "Logic."

At seventeen Huxley entered as a student at Charing Cross Hospital, and three years later he was M.B. and the possessor of the gold medal for anatomy and physiology. An appointment as surgeon in the navy proved to be the entry to Huxley's great scientific career, for he was gazetted to the "Rattlesnake", commissioned for surveying work in Torres Straits. He was attracted by the teeming surface life of tropical seas and his study of it was the commencement of that revolution in scientific knowledge ultimately brought about by his researches.

Thomas Henry Huxley was born at Ealing on May 4, 1825, and died at Eastbourne June 29, 1895.

LECTURES AND ESSAYS BY T.H. HUXLEY

ON OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE CAUSES OF THE PHENOMENA OF ORGANIC NATURE

NOTICE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

The Publisher of these interesting Lectures, having made an arrangement for their publication with Mr. J. A. Mays, the Reporter, begs to append the following note from Professor Huxley:

"Mr. J. Aldous Mays, who is taking shorthand notes of my 'Lectures to Working Men,' has asked me to allow him, on his own account, to print those Notes for the use of my audience. I willingly accede to this request, on the understanding that a notice is prefixed to the effect that I have no leisure to revise the Lectures, or to make alterations in them, beyond the correction of any important error in a matter of fact."

THE PRESENT CONDITION OF ORGANIC NATURE.

When it was my duty to consider what subject I would select for the six lectures [To Working Men, at the Museum of Practical Geology, 1863.] which I shall now have the pleasure of delivering to you, it occurred to me that I could not do better than endeavour to put before you in a true light, or in what I might perhaps with more modesty call, that which I conceive myself to be the true light, the position of a book which has been more praised and more abused, perhaps, than any book which has appeared for some years; I mean Mr. Darwin's work on the "Origin of Species". That work, I doubt not, many of you have read; for I know the inquiring spirit which is rife among you. At any rate, all of you will have heard of it, some by one kind of report and some by another kind of report; the attention of all and the curiosity of all have been probably more or less excited on the subject of that work. All I can do, and all I shall attempt to do, is to put before you that kind of judgment which has been formed by a man, who, of course, is liable to judge erroneously; but, at any rate, of one whose business and profession it is to form judgments upon questions of this nature.

And here, as it will always happen when dealing with an extensive subject, the greater part of my course if, indeed, so small a number of lectures can be properly called a course must be devoted to preliminary matters, or rather to a statement of those facts and of those principles which the work itself dwells upon, and brings more or less directly before us... Continue reading book >>




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