11 Huxley facts you might not have known

11 Huxley facts you might not have known

24 July 2015

by Nick Rice

Born on 26 July 1894, we're wishing Huxley a happy birthday by picking 11 facts we think may have influenced his work and others.

1. Huxley was born into a family of renowned scientists. His grandfather was biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, nicknamed ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ for his strong support for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. He’s also credited with creating the term ‘agnostic’.

Charles Darwin

2. Huxley’s brother was evolutionary biologist and eugenicist Sir Julian Huxley, becoming the first UNESCO director and a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund.

 

3. Huxley lost his mother to cancer when he was 14, on her deathbed she wrote him a letter he kept for the rest of his life. It read

‘Judge not too much and love more’

 

4. A few years later, Huxley was dealt another blow, suffering temporary blindness for a few years following an infection. Aged sixteen, he was unable to pursue a career in medicine. He eventually regained partial sight in one eye.

 

5. 23-year-old Huxley was hired as schoolmaster at Eton. He taught French to pupil Eric Blair, who later uses the pen name George Orwell.

 

6. George Orwell sent a copy of ‘1984’ to Huxley. Huxley writes to Orwell praising his book, recognising it as ‘profoundly important’. He then turns his attention to the subject matter of the book, arguing that the ‘nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World’.

George Orwell

7. Huxley wrote 50 books: satires, novels of ideas, collections of philosophical essays and travel books. Huxley’s works would become more interested in spirituality, especially parapsychology and mysticism. Some critics used this to discredit Huxley, with many regarding him as being unfaithful to his earlier writings.

 

8. In 1937, Huxley moved to California where he befriended Indian philosopher Krishnamurti. They can be seen to be influencing of each other’s work with Huxley becoming a great admirer of his work and writing the foreword for Krishnamurti’s 1954 book ‘The First and Last Freedom’.

Krishnamurti

9. American rock band The Doors took their name from Huxley’s 1954 book ‘The Doors of Perception’, documenting his experiences when taking mescaline. Huxley himself had taken its title from a metaphor in William Blake’s 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The Doors

10. The Oxford English Dictionary credits Huxley with being the first to use the term ‘futurology’ in 1946. It also lists him at first using the words bitchy and snooty.

 

11. Huxley died on 22 November 1963 – the same day that the then President of the United States John F. Kennedy was shot dead. On his deathbed, Huxley wrote a note to his wife reading “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular.”

Huxley's deathbed request

Brave New World premieres at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 4 to 26 September 2015. It then tours to Edinburgh, Blackpool, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Bradford where it concludes on 5 December.