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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/794

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY.
By Prof. MICHAEL FOSTER.

TWO scenes in Huxley's life stand out clear and full of meaning amid my recollections of him, reaching now some forty years back. Both took place at Oxford, both at meetings of the British Association. The first, few witnesses of which now remain, was the memorable discussion on Darwin in 1860. The room was crowded though it was a Saturday, and the meeting was excited. The bishop had spoken; cheered loudly from time to time during his speech, he sat down amid rapturous applause, ladies waving their handkerchiefs with great enthusiasm; and in almost dead silence, broken merely by greetings which, coming only from the few who knew, seemed as nothing, Huxley, then well-nigh unknown outside the narrow circle of scientific workers, began his reply. A cheer, chiefly from a knot of young men in the audience, hearty but seeming scant through the fewness of those who gave it, and almost angrily resented by some, welcomed the first point made. Then as, slowly and measuredly at first, more quickly and with more vigor later, stroke followed stroke, the circle of cheers grew wider and yet wider, until the speaker's last words were crowned with an applause falling not far short of, indeed equaling, that which had gone before, an applause hearty and genuine in its recognition that a strong man had arisen among the biologists of England.

The second scene, that of 1894, is still fresh in the minds of all. No one who was present is likely to forget how, when Huxley rose to second the vote of thanks for the presidential address, the whole house burst into a cheering such as had never before been witnessed on any like occasion, a cheering which said, as plainly as such things can say, "This is the faithful servant who has labored for more than half a century on behalf of science with his face set firmly toward truth, and we want him to know that his labors have not been in vain." Nor is any one likely to forget the few carefully chosen, wise, pregnant words which fell from him when the applause died away. Those two speeches, the one long and polemical, the other brief and judicial, show, when taken together, many of the qualities which made Huxley great and strong.

Among those qualities perhaps the most dominant, certainly the most effective as regards his influence on the world, were, on the one hand, an alertness, a quickness of apprehension, and a clear way of thinking, which, in dealing with a problem, made him dissatisfied with any solution incapable of rigid proof and incisive expression; he seemed always to go about with a halo of