Huxley's plate showing the distinctive qualities of the Neanderthal skull and how it differed from modern humans.

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Thomas Huxley Issues "Man's Place in Nature"


In 1863 English biologist, paleontologist  and evolutionist Thomas Henry Huxley published Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature in London. The first issue of the edition contained publisher’s advertisements dated February 1863.

On February 18, 1863, Darwin wrote to Huxley, “Hurrah the monkey book has come!” (quoted in Desmond, Huxley, The Devils’ Disciple [1994] 312). Man’s Place in Nature was the first book to directly address the evidence for human evolution from primates. Together with Lyell’s Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man, which was published a few weeks earlier, Man’s Place in Nature was also the first book to consider the role of prehistoric human remains as evidence for human evolution. While Lyell approached the topics primarily from the geological point of view, Huxley approached the subjects mainly from the point of view of comparative anatomy. Besides showing the anatomical analogies between mankind and the lower primates Huxley devoted a chapter to the Neanderthal skull, the first species of mankind that was demonstrably different than modern human.

Concerning Huxley’s work, Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man: “Prof. Huxley, in the opinion of most competent judges, has conclusively shewn that in every visible character man differs less from the higher apes, than these do from the lower members of the same order of primates.” (p.3).

Sometimes called “Darwin’s bulldog”, Huxley enjoyed involvement in scientific controversy that more cautious scientists such as Darwin preferred to avoid. Like Lyell’s Antiquity of Man, Huxley’s book took topics which had previously been confined mostly to scientific journals and brought them to the attention of the reading public. Because Huxley’s and Lyell’s books were often reviewed together in popular magazines, this tended to generate even further controversy.

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