Science and the State

Nature (September 1892)

Notes: Nature (August 25, 1892)

Among the honours announced in the change of Ministry the Privy Councillorship conferred upon Prof. Huxley not only establishes a precedent, but affords an indication that the neglect of the claims of men of science, whether they be servants of the Crown or not, to the ordinary national distinctions is not likely to be so marked in the future as it has been in the past. Six years ago, or thereabouts, Prof. Huxley was allowed to leave the public service without the slightest recognition of the value of the work he had done in many capacities during some forty years. No better way of making the so-called "honours" ridiculous can be found than in generally omitting to confer them upon persons of distinction–persons known to the nation as devoting their lives to the national welfare in some walk or other.

In last week's Nature I find the statement that I was allowed to leave the public service "without the slightest recognition" by the State.

However distasteful it may be to me to have anything to say on this subject, I feel bound, in justice both to Lord Salisbury's and to Mr. Gladstone's former Governments, to point out that it is incorrect. Very substantial recognition was awarded me by both; and the late Lord Iddlesleigh, in offering to recommend me for a Civil List pension, expressly put it as an honour.

The distinction which the Queen has recently been pleased to confer upon me must therefore, I am afraid, be placed in the category of "unearned increments."

Barmouth, Wales, August 30, 1892
T. H. Huxley

[We did not refer to such recognition as is implied in the granting of pensions. What we meant was that the State ought to have marked its appreciation of Prof. Huxley's great services by conferring on him some national distinction of the kind he has now received.–Ed.]


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University