Professor Protoplasm

Boston Daily Globe (Aug. 19, 1876 < Detroit Free Press)

The eminent English scientist, Professor Huxley, made but a short stop in New York, but his arrival was the cause of a conversation between one of our amateur scientists and a matter-of-fact friend, that seems to be worth reporting. The amateur is an enthusiastic admirer of Huxley, and he spoke so extravagantly about him that the friend finally became curious, and asked:

"Who in thunder is Huxley, anyway?"

"You don't mean to say you have not heard of Professor Huxley, the great scientist?"

"Yes, I do though. Never heard his name before. What has he done?"

"Why, man, Huxley made the important discovery about protoplasm."

"About what?"


"And what the dickens is protoplasm?"

"Now, look here, you don't mean to sit there and tell me you don't know what protoplasm is?"

"That's just it. Nary protoplasm."

"Well, protoplasm is what we may call the life principle."

"Anything to do with insurance?"

"Oh, nonsense; the life principle is nature–the starting point of vital action, so to speak."

"He discovered that, did he?"

"Yes, a few years ago, in England."

"And what good is it going to do?"

"Good! A great deal of good. It expands the circle of human knowledge, and is valuable in bearing out the theory of evolution. It is a noble contribution to science, and it has made Huxley one of the few immortal names that were not born to die."

"So Huxley knows all about the life principle, does he?"

"Yes, all about it."

"And the starting point of final action?"


"Well, see here now, can he take some of that protoplasm and go to work and make a man or a horse or an elephant with it?"

"Oh, no, he couldn't do that."

"Can he take it and make anything at all of it, even a gnat or a fly?"

"I guess not."

"Well, then, he may just go to thunder with his protoplasm. I don't believe it's worth ten cents a pound, anyway. 'Pears to me these scientific fellows put on a big lot of airs about very little. Protoplasm, eh? Shouldn't wonder if Huxley came over here to set up a company to work it. Did you say the mine is in England?"

The scientist gave him up in despair.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University