Hal (Not the Computer)
I'm plowing through Adrian Desmond's biography of Thomas Henry Huxley. Hal was nicknamed "Darwin's Bulldog," taking on the public debate surrounding evolution. Thomas Henry came from a blue collar nest, worked furiously to become president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, coining the word "agnostic" on his way. His time was different, however, from ours. That era required an Anglican pedigree for admission to Oxford or Cambridge. Religion was seen as a tool for class oppression; evolution one for rebellion. (The reverse of today when higher education is often associated with an empirical outlook while the blue collar groups are often more traditional in their religious faith.) Huxley made it to the top despite his social class and perhaps because of his rudeness. Very much a manic, driven salmon, getting up stream to spawn 6 children and a school of memes.
My impression from the book is less that he was a champion of Darwin; rather, one of himself and his natal social class. Huxley enjoyed packed halls with tradesmen and businessmen while he argued the merits of evolution. He clowned and entertained while, in other forums, persistently using his adversarial manner against the Establishment. Fortunately, he was funny and creative as well as correct ... he made it a point to be right and to win. Despite his much quoted war with Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford ("I'd rather be descended from an ape than to use ridicule to suppress another man's ideas," or some such after the Bishop asked THH whether he was descended from the apes through his father or mother? Actually, a pretty funny question! I have to give the edge to Wilberforce. Hal likely carried the day because he was being oppositional and the hall packed with rowdies), Huxley seems to have worked well with the same bishop while directing a zoological museum. (1)
I must wonder how productive Thomas Henry could have been with a word-processor? Or, with desktop publishing? Audiences are easier to find on the Net, spell checkers help immensely, and typing is so much faster than script. He would probably rank with Gould, Dawkins, and Pinker combined. My gosh, how painful it must have been for Huxley to slow down, to process ideas at a rate consistent with moving them through his fingers! (Many ADHD or manic kids have motor problems, they also hate to slow their thoughts to a pace consistent with their pencil. Doctors are thought to scrawl for the same reason.) There's a book in the nature sections, the title starts with HAL. I thought of Thomas Henry, the book is about a computer. Still, what a symbiosis the two Hals could have made!
Desmond A (1997) Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley. "Huxley and the bishop sat together to sort out finances, sack drunken keepers, and oversee a stream of imperial acquisitions ... Through the public shrieking, their quiet collaboration continued, unheralded, unknown." Tit for Tat?