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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > Thomas Henry Huxley Quotes > Ape

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Thomas Henry Huxley
(4 May 1825 - 29 Jun 1895)

English biologist known as the main advocate for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.



Responding to the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce's question whether he traced his descent from an ape on his mother's or his father's side:
If then, said I, the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessing great means and influence and yet who employs those faculties for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion—I unhesitatingly affirm my preference for the ape.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
Letter to Dr. Dyster (9 Sep 1860), Huxley Papers, Imperial College of Science and Technology. Quoted in D.J. Foskett, 'Wilberforce and Huxley on Evolution' in a letter to Nature, 1953, 172, 920.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (42)  |  Discussion (48)  |  Grandfather (9)  |  Ridicule (17)  |  Samuel Wilberforce (3)

A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man—a man of restless and versatile intellect—who … plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
As recollected in a letter written by an undergraduate, John Richard Green, writing to his friend, afterwards Professor Boyd Dawkins. This was Huxley's rebuttal to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce who ridiculed Darwin's theory of evolution at a meeting of the British Association at Oxford (30 Jun 1860). After hearing Wilberforce's speech, and before rising himself, Huxley is said to have remarked, “The Lord has delivered him into my hands!” (No transcript was taken at the time, so the words are not verbatim. The version above is commonly seen, and was said by Huxley to be fair in substance, if not wholely accurate. The letter excerpt is in Leonard Huxley (ed.), Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1916), Vol. 1, 199. Additional accounts of the debate are given in the book.
Science quotes on:  |  Ancestor (40)  |  Ape (42)  |  Evolution (535)  |  Prejudice (66)  |  Religion (239)  |  Rhetoric (8)  |  Samuel Wilberforce (3)

As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the other day, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read, as part of his duty, the words, 'If the dead rise not again, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all that well best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to the source from whence it came, the cause of a great happiness, still retaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and will spring from that cause, I am to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovel in bestiality? Why, the very apes know better, and if you shoot their young, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in a gorge.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
Letter to Charles Kingsley (23 Sep 1860). In L. Huxley, The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1903), Vol. 1, 318.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (42)  |  Death (302)  |  Son (24)

For these two years I have been gravitating towards your doctrines, and since the publication of your primula paper with accelerated velocity. By about this time next year I expect to have shot past you, and to find you pitching into me for being more Darwinian than yourself. However, you have set me going, and must just take the consequences, for I warn you I will stop at no point so long as clear reasoning will take me further.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley, Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1901), 211.
Science quotes on:  |  Consequence (114)  |  Charles Darwin (301)  |  Doctrine (75)  |  Publication (91)  |  Reasoning (100)  |  Stop (76)

In no sense can the Neanderthal bones be regarded as the remains of a human being intermediate between men and apes.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
In Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863), 157.
Science quotes on:  |  Anthropology (56)  |  Ape (42)  |  Bone (63)  |  Human (550)  |  Intermediate (20)  |  Man (373)  |  Neanderthal (3)  |  Remains (9)

Is man a peculiar organism? Does he originate in a wholly different way from a dog, bird, frog, or fish? and does he thereby justify those who assert that he has no place in nature, and no real relationship with the lower world of animal life? Or does he develop from a similar embryo, and undergo the same slow and gradual progressive modifications? The answer is not for an instant doubtful, and has not been doubtful for the last thirty years. The mode of man’s origin and the earlier stages of his development are undoubtedly identical with those of the animals standing directly below him in the scale; without the slightest doubt, he stands in this respect nearer the ape than the ape does to the dog. (1863)
— Thomas Henry Huxley
As quoted in Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.) as epigraph for Chap. 12, The History of Creation (1886), Vol. 1, 364.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal Life (5)  |  Answer (249)  |  Ape (42)  |  Assert (21)  |  Bird (120)  |  Develop (107)  |  Development (289)  |  Difference (246)  |  Dog (44)  |  Doubt (160)  |  Doubtful (9)  |  Embryo (23)  |  Fish (95)  |  Frog (33)  |  Gradual (26)  |  Identical (19)  |  Justify (23)  |  Lower (11)  |  Modification (35)  |  Nature (1223)  |  Nearer (8)  |  Organism (150)  |  Origin Of Man (8)  |  Originate (21)  |  Peculiar (45)  |  Place (175)  |  Progressive (17)  |  Relationship (71)  |  Similar (35)  |  Undergo (14)  |  World (898)

It is not I who seek to base Man's dignity upon his great toe, or insinuate that we are lost if an Ape has a hippocampus minor. On the contrary, I have done my best to sweep away this vanity. I have endeavoured to show that no absolute structural line of demarcation, wider than that between the animals which immediately succeed us in the scale, can be drawn between the animal world and ourselves; and I may add the expression of my belief that the attempt to draw a physical distinction is equally futile, and that even the highest facuities of feeling and of intellect begin to germinate in lower forms of life. At the same time, no one is more strongly convinced than I am of the vastness of the gulf between civilized man and the brutes; or is more certain that whether from them or not, he is assuredly not of them.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
'On the Relations of Man to the Lower Animals' (1863). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 7. 152-3.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (42)  |  Man (373)

The publication of the Darwin and Wallace papers in 1858, and still more that of the 'Origin' in 1859, had the effect upon them of the flash of light, which to a man who has lost himself in a dark night, suddenly reveals a road which, whether it takes him straight home or not, certainly goes his way. That which we were looking for, and could not find, was a hypothesis respecting the origin of known organic forms, which assumed the operation of no causes but such as could be proved to be actually at work. We wanted, not to pin our faith to that or any other speculation, but to get hold of clear and definite conceptions which could be brought face to face with facts and have their validity tested. The 'Origin' provided us with the working hypothesis we sought.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol 2, 197.
Science quotes on:  |  Charles Darwin (301)  |  Evolution (535)  |  Fact (733)  |  Faith (157)  |  Hypothesis (252)  |  Origin Of Life (35)  |  Proof (245)  |  Publication (91)  |  Speculation (104)  |  Alfred Russel Wallace (40)

Where, then, must we look for primaeval Man? Was the oldest Homo sapiens pliocene or miocene, or yet more ancient? In still older strata do the fossilized bones of an ape more anthropoid, or a Man more pithecoid, than any yet known await the researches of some unborn paleontologist?
— Thomas Henry Huxley
'On some Fossil Remains of Man' (1863). In Collected Essays (1894). Vol. 7, 208.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (42)  |  Homo Sapiens (20)  |  Paleontology (30)

[The teaching of Nature] is harsh and wasteful in its operation. Ignorance is visited as sharply as wilful disobedience—incapacity meets with the same punishment as crime. Nature’s discipline is not even a word and a blow, and the blow first; but the blow without the word. It is left to you to find out why your ears are boxed.
The object of what we commonly call education—that education in which man intervenes, and which I shall distinguish as artificial education—is to make good these defects in Nature’s methods; to prepare the child to receive Nature’s education, neither incapably, nor ignorantly, nor with wilful disobedience; and to understand the preliminary symptoms of her displeasure, without waiting for the box on the ear. In short, all artificial education ought to he an anticipation of natural education. And a liberal education is an artificial education, which has not only prepared a man to escape the great evils of disobedience to natural laws, but has trained him to appreciate and to seize upon the rewards, which Nature scatters with as free a hand as her penalties.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
From Inaugural Address as Principal, South London Working Men’s College, in 'A Liberal Education; and Where to Find it', Macmillan's Magazine (Mar 1868), 17, 370.
Science quotes on:  |  Blow (22)  |  Child (252)  |  Crime (26)  |  Discipline (53)  |  Disobedience (4)  |  Education (347)  |  Harsh (8)  |  Ignorance (213)  |  Incapacity (3)  |  Natural Law (31)  |  Nature (1223)  |  Penalty (6)  |  Punishment (11)  |  Reward (49)  |  Teaching (108)  |  Word (302)


See also:
  • 4 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Huxley's birth.
  • Thomas Henry Huxley - Autobiography
  • Thomas Henry Huxley - context of quote “Investigation of nature is an infinite pasture-ground ” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Thomas Henry Huxley - context of quote “Investigation of nature is an infinite pasture-ground ” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Henry Huxley: The Evolution of a Scientist, by Sherrie L. Lyons. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Thomas Huxley.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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