Vivisection Bill

The Times (May 1876)

In your account of the late debate in the House of Lords on the Vivisection Bill, Lord Shaftesbury is reported to have said that in my Lessons in Elementary Physiology, it is strongly insisted that such experiments as those subjoined shall not merely be studied in the manual, but actually repeated, either by the boys and girls themselves or else by the teachers in their presence, as plainly appears from the preface to the second edition.

I beg leave to give the most emphatic and unqualified contradiction to this assertion, for which there is not a shadow of justification either in the preface to the second edition of my Lessons or in anything I have ever said or written elsewhere. The most important paragraph of the preface which is the subject of Lord Shaftesbury's misquotation and misrepresentation stands as follows:–

"For the purpose of acquiring a practical, though elementary, acquaintance with physiological anatomy and histology, the organs and tissues of the commonest domestic animals afford ample materials. The principal points in the structure and mechanism of the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, or the eye of man may be perfectly illustrated by the corresponding parts of a sheep; while the phenomena of the circulation, many of the most important properties of living tissues are better shown by the common frog than by any of the higher animals."

If Lord Shaftesbury had the slightest theoretical or practical acquaintance with the subject about which he is so anxious to legislate, he would know that physiological anatomy is not exactly the same thing as experimental physiology; and he would be aware that the recommendations of the paragraph I have quoted might be fully carried into effect without the performance of even a solitary "vivisection." The assertion that I have ever suggested or desired the introduction of vivisection into the teaching of elementary physiology in schools, is, I repeat, contrary to fact.

Round My Garden

(1) "Charles suddenly fascinated by a new & elegant watering pot."
(2) "Spends all his days and nights making love to her."
Huxley Archives


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University