An Intimate History of Evolution – the incredible Huxleys

Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian:

“Dear Sir,” wrote a nameless correspondent to Julian Huxley in 1937. “Would you consent to being the father of my wife’s child, possibly by artificial insemination?” Alison Bashford doesn’t reveal what prompted the request, nor if the evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and ecologist supplied the genetic material.

But she certainly knows why the correspondent would request it. The Huxley family, seemingly, had the right stuff that anyone would want to graft on to their family tree. The dynasty of geniuses began with Julian’s grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95), the great Victorian biologist and comparative anatomist known as Darwin’s bulldog for savaging critics of his friend’s account of natural selection, and proselytising that we descend not from Adam and Eve but from apes. His grandson Julian (1887–1975) was a biologist, a transhumanist, a poet, sci-fi writer, the secretary of London zoo, the first Unesco director general, a broadcasting catalyst for David Attenborough, a eugenicist and a leading figure in the “modern synthesis” that married Darwin’s theory of evolution with the first geneticist, gardening monk Gregor Mendel’s ideas on heredity.

The rest of the Huxleys were no slouches either. Julian’s physiologist half-brother Andrew was a Nobel laureate. Julian’s son Francis was an anthropologist and founder of Survival International. The most famous Huxley, Julian’s brother Aldous, author of Brave New World and devotee of consciousness-altering drugs, was perhaps a bit of an underachiever. The Huxleys were like the Kardashians in one sense only: it was hard to keep up with them.

More here.