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Darwin's bulldog, Albany Hancock & the theory of evolution. Talk by Prof Wallace Arthur

Friday 11 March, 7pm-8pm
Great North Museum: Hancock

Charles Darwin’s 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, changed our view of the living world. But the change only became widely accepted after numerous heated debates, which the evolutionists won. Darwin himself did not take part in these debates, mainly because of his recurring illness. But his ‘bulldog’, Thomas Henry Huxley, did. Indeed, he was the key figure in the fight for Darwin’s theory in public gatherings, such as the great Oxford evolution debate of 1860. Throughout the decades before and after this – the 1850s and 1860s – Huxley maintained a correspondence with Albany Hancock. Both men were experts on molluscs and their correspondence was based on how to interpret similarities and differences between various groups of molluscs such as sea slugs and squid. Huxley wrote about 40 letters to Hancock over 20 years, but he never once mentioned Darwin. Why not? In contrast, he did mention, many times, the infamous Richard Owen. Why? In this talk, we’ll look at what was really at issue in the correspondence between Huxley and Hancock; as a result, we’ll see the evolution debate from an interesting and unusual angle.

Wallace Arthur is a zoologist specialising in evolutionary developmental biology. He is Emeritus Professor of Zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway and prior to 2004 he was Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sunderland. He is one of the founding editors of the journal Evolution and Development, and has written several books on evolution.