Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/319

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


By Professor A. O. Norton

HUXLEY'S address on "Science and Culture"[1] was delivered in 1880, at the opening of Mason Science College in Birmingham, England. Like many academic addresses, it not only celebrates a local event, but also deals with questions of the day, chosen to suit the occasion. Unlike most such addresses, however, it is of permanent value as a document in the history of a great epoch in English educational progress. The event which it celebrates marks "a crisis in the long battle, or rather of the long series of battles" which were fought over education during the nineteenth century; the discussion concerns two of the most significant educational reforms of that century; the speaker was a great leader in the struggle which brought those reforms to pass; the style of the address illustrates the "strenuous and attractive method of exposition" which characterizes all of Huxley's writings, and which was a powerful means of winning public support for his views.


The full significance of "Science and Culture" appears only when it is placed in its historical setting. To-day Huxley's views seem commonplace, because to-day everyone accepts them. Who, nowadays, disputes his proposition that the sciences are an essential element of modern culture? And who denies that "the diffusion of a thorough scientific education is an absolutely essential condition of industrial progress"?

In England in 1880, however, these ideas seemed shockingly radical to a very large majority of the people who were doing the thinking of the country and managing its affairs; and the advocates of scientific

  1. Harvard Classics, xxviii, 209ff.