Julian Huxley was an important figure in the study of evolutionary biology. He was a major proponent of natural selection and though natural selection was the primary agent in evolution. He was a key creator of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (Huxley, 1942). This is a compilation of ideas from genetics, cytology, systematics, botany, morphology, ecology and paleontology. The modern synthesis is the fundamental basis for all current work in evolutionary biology; it combines Neo-Darwinism and modern genetics.
He is known for being a supporter of the Eugenics movement but believed race was a meaningless concept in biology. He was an outspoken critic of Hitler’s extreme eugenics. He did, however, believe there is value of controlling the reproduction of societies “genetically inferior lower class”. Although this concept is disturbing today it was a common perspective for the time.
Huxley viewed the term ‘evolution’, in its broadest sense, as denoting ‘all the historical processes of change and development at work in the universe’. He believed that humankind could guide these processes consciously, to achieve further world progress. As human societies could benefit from ‘cumulative tradition’ or ‘social heredity’, natural selection was being replaced by conscious selection as the motor of evolution, the possible rate of which was therefore ‘enormously speeded up’ (Toye and Toye, 2006).
Another value contribution of Huxley was the spread biological concepts to the general public through many mediums. He was the secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935-1942) and a founding member of World Wildlife Fund.
Huxley, J. (1942). Evolution. The Modern Synthesis. Evolution. The Modern Synthesis.
Toye, J and Toye, R. (2006). In 60 Years of Science at UNESCO 1945-2005, UNESCO.