ARTICLE: “I would sooner die than give up”: Huxley and Darwin’s deep disagreement

New in the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences:

“I would sooner die than give up”: Huxley and Darwin’s deep disagreement

[open access PDF]

Mary P. Winsor

Abstract Thomas Henry Huxley and Charles Darwin discovered in 1857 that they had a fundamental disagreement about biological classification. Darwin believed that the natural system should express genealogy while Huxley insisted that classification must stand on its own basis, independent of evolution. Darwin used human races as a model for his view. This private and long-forgotten dispute exposes important divisions within Victorian biology. Huxley, trained in physiology and anatomy, was a professional biologist while Darwin was a gentleman naturalist. Huxley agreed with John Stuart Mill’s rejection of William Whewell’s sympathy for Linnaeus. The naturalists William Sharp Macleay, Hugh Strickland, and George Waterhouse worked to distinguish two kinds of relationship, affinity and analogy. Darwin believed that his theory could explain the difference. Richard Owen introduced the distinction between homology and analogy to anatomists, but the word homology did not enter Darwin’s vocabulary until 1848, when he used the morphological concept of archetype in his work on Cirripedia. Huxley dropped the word archetype when Richard Owen linked it to Plato’s ideal forms, replacing it with common plan. When Darwin wrote in the Origin of Species that the word plan gives no explanation, he may have had Huxley in mind. Darwin’s preposterous story in the Origin about a bear giving birth to a kangaroo, which he dropped in the second edition, was in fact aimed at Huxley.

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