Address to the Royal Academy 1876

Pall Mall Gazette (May 1876)

[37] Professor Huxley and Mr. Anthony Trollope responded to the customary compliments to science and literature. Mr. Huxley, in concluding his speech, said:–

I will be generous and acquaint you with a fact not generally known: to wit, that the recent progress of biological speculation leads to the conclusion that the scale of being must be thus stated–minerals, plants, animals, men who cannot draw–artists. Thence I conclude, sir, that you, as President of the Academy, are the crown and summit of creation. My statement, however complimentary, may be a little startling, and you will, therefore, I hope, permit me to state the grounds on which it takes rank as a scientific truth. We have been long seeking, as you may be aware, for a distinction between men and animals. The old barriers have long broken away. Other things walk on two legs and have no feathers, caterpillars make themselves clothes, kangaroos have pockets. If I am not to believe that my dog reasons, loves, and hates, how am I to be sure that my neighbour does? Parrots, again, talk what deserves the name of sense as much as a great deal which it would be rude to call nonsense. Again, beavers and ants engineer as well as the members of the noblest profession. But, as a friend of mine discovered a few years ago, man alone can draw or make onto himself a likeness. This, then, is the great distinction of humanity, and it follows that the most pre-eminently human of creatures are those who posses this distinction in the highest degree.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University