How the Huxley family influenced the world

The story of Aldous Huxley and his prominent family.

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Aldous Huxley, author of ‘Brave New World’. Photo: LIFE

Aldous Huxley, the visionary author behind some of the most prophetic dystopian fiction of all time, was born into a prominent family that was instrumental in developing the modern world.

Underlying themes found in his famous work, Brave New World (1932), bare a striking resemblance to institutions and programs that his family was deeply embedded in — creating conditions to shape human history.


Published on 27 August 2019 for Free Subscribers and made available to the public on 21 May 2020.


OVERVIEW

In 1932, Aldous Huxley published the groundbreaking novel Brave New World presenting a picture of an advanced dictatorship controlling a dystopian, consumerist welfare state.

In this world, rule is by “bread and circuses” and citizens are well-off, safe, never ill and unafraid of death, oblivious to real human emotions and passions. They have no mothers or fathers, no wives or children, no attachments, no rejection, jealousy or hurt. 

Efficiency, production and consumerism are the most important values in Huxley’s world, allowing lust and pleasure to ultimately replace love & empathy.

The comparison the novel holds with George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four is certainly fitting, but the vision and foresight in Brave New World — the sheer audacity it displays, is simply unrivalled.

So just who is Aldous Huxley and what are some of the connections behind the prolific author?

Importantly, what are some of the underlying tones in Brave New World that have stood the test of time as we enter an era characterized by censorship, surveillance and technological convenience?

ALDOUS HUXLEY

Aldous Huxley was an English writer and philosopher who authored prolific novels and non-fiction works, as well as wide-ranging essays, narratives and poems.

Huxley was interested in philosophical mysticism and universalism, while his works illustrated commonalities between Western and Eastern thoughts, mixed with interpretations of his own psychedelic experiences with mescaline.

In his most famous novel Brave New World (1932) and his final novel Island (1962), he presented his vision of dystopia and utopia, painting a vision of the world that almost parallels current conditions.

Huxley, one of the foremost intellectuals of his time, was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times and elected Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature in 1962.

Although Huxley is marvelled for his ability to ‘envision’ a future where consumerism and technology would create a false utopia, deeper questions arise when digging beneath the surface. 

Aldous was born into a family that played a key part in the transformation of the modern world, leaving many to suggest deeper connections lie beneath the surface of the pages themselves.

FAMILY CONNECTIONS

Aldous Huxley was born into a well-established, prominent family, with a rich history of distinguished intellectuals on both sides, highly esteemed among the English aristocracy. 

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY

The patriarch of the family was Thomas Henry Huxley, a famous zoologist and comparative anatomist who is known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Huxley’s famous debate in 1860 with Samuel Wilberforce was a key moment in the wider acceptance of evolution, and his work on invertebrates would clarify the relationship between humans and apes.

Instrumental in developing scientific education in Britain, he fought against religious tradition at a time when science was emerging in the new world hierarchy of understanding human existence.

The Royal Society, who had elected him as Fellow when he was 25 (1851), awarded him the Royal Medal the next year (1852), a year before Charles Darwin got the same award.

Huxley’s most recognised works centered around the classification of the human races into nine categories, discussed under four headings: Australoid, Negroid, Xanthocroic and Mongoloid types:

Huxley’s work to ‘categorise’ humans. Photo: BBC

This is important in relation to Brave New World, as the plot centers around citizens being engineered through artificial wombs and childhood indoctrination programmes into predetermined classes based on intelligence and labour. 

JULIAN HUXLEY

Julian (left) with his brother, Aldous Huxley. Photo: Getty

The life and ideas of Julian Huxley represent not only considerable contributions to evolutionary theory, but also to eugenic thought and social planning in the modern world.

One of the most influential eugenicists of all time, Huxley was secretary of the Zoological Society of London, the first Director of UNESCO, a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund and the first President of the British Humanist Association.

Following a backlash towards Eugenic concepts after World War II, Julian Huxley’s significant contributions to the movement ensured that the underlying notions associated with eugenics would transform and continue into new social movements for many decades to come.

During the 1950s, Huxley would re-define eugenics as ‘socially progressive’, with linkages to the newly formed and comprehensive welfare states that offered ‘solutions’ to poverty and disease.

He would later adeptly associate modern eugenics with a range of reformist movements before his death, such as the popularisation of birth control, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion law reform — coining the term “eugenic modernisation”.

Julian would win the Kalinga Prize, the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 1956, the Darwin–Wallace Medal of the Linnaean Society and he was also knighted.

ANDREW HUXLEY

Andrew Huxley, another prominent member of the Huxley family, was an English physiologist and biophysicist who would win the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Huxley became famous for developing a set of differential equations that provided a mathematical explanation for nerve impulses, or the “action potential”

This work provided the foundation for all of the current work on voltage-sensitive membrane channels, which are responsible for the functioning of the nervous systems.

In our recent piece, Screens can manipulate the nervous system, we explore how these discoveries would later develop to the point where researchers would patented techniques to use electromagnetic frequencies to disrupt these particular channels.

Andrew was conferred a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, and was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1983. He was a fellow of Trinity College at Cambridge University until his death.

Angela Huxley, Andrew’s mother, was married George Pember Darwin, meaning that a great-grandson of Charles Darwin married a great-granddaughter of Thomas Huxley.

LEONARD HUXLEY

Leonard Huxley was an Australian-based member of the Huxley family who was a physicist at the Australian Radio Research Board and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research 1929 to 1931.

A lesser-known Huxley of the family, Huxley migrated from England to Australia in 1905, where he would win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford while in his second year at the University of Tasmania.

Leonard would serve as a Professor of Physics at the University of Adelaide from 1949 to 1960, and Vice-Chancellor at Australian National University from 1960 to 1967.

Huxley was also the President of the Australian Branch of the UK Institute of Physics 1954 to 1955, and served as President of the Australian Institute of Physics 1962 to 1965.

Huxley would become a key figure in the establishment in the scientific community, instrumental for of the Anglo-Australian Telescope, the first sophisticated telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the very first telescopes to be fully computer-controlled.

He was elected a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1953 and was also knighted in 1964, like most of his family.

Other prominent members of the Huxley family include: Margaret Huxley (nurse who introduced scientific training to Europe), Peter Eckersley (pioneered the BBC) and Crispin Tickell (a prominent UN climate researcher who was instrumental in the early days of climate change alarmism).

BRAVE NEW WORLD’ ORDER

Aldous Huxley was one of the only figures to detail emerging regimes that invariably rule over a populus of low-income consumers, where people think they are always happy, always get what they want, and never want what they can’t have.

Through a systematic and complicated breeding process, it is a place in which artifice rules and children are conditioned to prioritise consumerism, sexual pleasure and dedication to a World State. 

Here, real emotion and ideals are purged, and concepts such as family, religion, empathy and honour are banned, all replaced by the new biological process of controlled human life at all levels.

Brave New World foresaw the ubiquitous prevalence of drugs, both legal and illegal, and how pharmaceuticals would eventually sedate growing numbers of children.

Genetic engineering, euthanasia and even corruption at the top of world sport are all a part of his nightmare future, where an artificial, mundane popular culture opiates the masses.

In Brave New World, the ways in which technology, in the control of powerful elites bares a stricking resemblence to methods used by social media, pornography, advertising and television. 

Huxley’s idea of “feely” interactive films anticipates reality TV, selfies, mass pornography and the internet voyeurism of our own time, and his sense of infant conditioning speaks powerfully to an age in which children as young as four are addicted to iPads.

PROPHECY OR PLANNED?

The story presented opens number of questions in regards to the role that not only the family played in developing modern society, but the relationship and significance these achievements hold when analysing Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World.

Beneath the surface of dystopian novels, a very real emotional element exists that touches each individual that reads them, as the writings relate to the reality of the darkest corners of our societies.

We don’t just observe dystopian settings as merely some bad slippery slope argument. Rather, they challenge us: What are the values in this dystopia, and what do they say about our values right now?

Dystopian novels allows readers to sit down and correctly envisage, for instance, how generations to come will be communicating, interacting, travelling, thinking and much more.

Aldous Huxley produced a novel that has stood the test of time for an uncanny ability to describe the soma-induced zombie world we are witnessing — many decades before it had developed.

He was also part of a family highly involved involved in the ‘discoveries’ and development of evolutionary theory, eugenics programs, brain technology, physics, nursing, broadcasting and more.

Was Huxley and his family involved in something deeper beneath the surface level? Could this book much more than science fiction? Did Huxley have insider information about a ‘grander scheme’?


WANT TO LEARN MORE?

This information has been taken from our latest membership piece, Future Visions: The World of Dystopian Fiction, and has been made available for Free Subscribers of our website.

In our latest piece, we take a look at all aspects of aspects of dystopian novel influence, including defining genres that changed literature, early science fiction, the rejection of ‘false utopia’, famous published works and their transition to reality, collection of authors responsible and an in-depth look at Aldous Huxley and the ‘Brave New World’ Order.

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