Basic Books, March 1999. Trade Paperback. Item #214104
T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) was Darwin's bloody-fanged bulldog. His giant scything intellect shook a prim Victorian society; his "Devil's gospel" of evolution outraged. He put "agnostic" into the vocabulary and cave men into the public consciousness. Adrian Desmond's fiery biography with its panoramic view of Dickensian life explains how this agent provocateur rose to become the century's greatest prophet.Synoptic in its sweep and evocative in its details, Desmond's biography reveals the poverty and opium-hazed tragedies of young Tom Huxley's life as well as the accolades and triumphs of his later years. The drug-grinder's apprentice knew sots and scandals and breakdowns that signaled a genius close to madness. As surgeon's mate on the cockroach-infested frigate Rattlesnake, he descended into hell on the Barrier Reef, but was saved by a golden-haired girl in the penal colony.Huxley pulled himself up to fight Darwin's battles in the 1860s, but left Darwin behind on the most inflammatory issues. He devasted angst-ridden Victorian society with his talk of ape ancestors, and tantalized and tormented thousands-from laborers to ladies of society, cardinals to Karl Marx--with his scintillating lectures. Out of his provocations came our image of science warring with theology. And out of them, too, came the West's new faith-agnosticism (he coined the new word).Champion of modern education, creator of an intellectually dominant profession, and president of the Royal Society, in Desmond's hands Huxley epitomizes the rise of the middle classes as the clawed power from the Anglican elite. His modern godless universe, intriguing and terrifying, millions of years in the making, was explored in his laboratory at South Kensington; his last pupil, H. G. Wells, made it the foundation of twentieth-century science fiction.Touching the crowning achievements and the crushing depths of both the man and his times, this is the epic story of a courageous genius whose life summed up the social changes from the Victorian to the modern age. Written with enormous zest and passion, Huxley is about the making of our modern Darwinian world.