A memorial is being held today in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to honour the life of Professor Hugh Huxley, scientist and Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association (BHA). He died on 25 July of a heart attack.
Professor Huxley was one of the 43 scientists and philosophers who in March 2002 signed the BHA letter to Tony Blair and relevant Government departments, deploring the teaching of Creationism in schools, and in July 2009 he joined other eminent scientists and educators calling for vital changes to the proposed science curriculum for primary schools in England in a letter to Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. He was also one of the signatories to a letter supporting a holiday on Charles’ Darwin’s birthday, published in The Times on February 12, 2003, and also sent to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary.
Born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, in 1924 Huxley received his PhD from Christ’s College, Cambridge and worked on radar in World War 2. He turned to biophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1952-4) and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology from 1961. From the 1950s he was the central figure in developing the detailed structural basis of muscle contraction*. He developed this concept in detail with Jean Hansen, and with thin slicing techniques devised X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy techniques for this work which are also applicable in other studies in physiology. He won the Royal Medal in 1977 and the Copley Medal in 1997. He became professor of biology at Brandeis University, MA, in 1987.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘Professor Huxley’s work helped push back the boundaries of human knowledge and he was always keen to support our work in ensuring that the UK continues to be a country that produces scientific thinkers able to do the same. For his support of this work, and indeed all our work, we are very grateful.’
Patrons of the British Humanist Association include some of the most important scientists and physicians of modern times; politicians; actors; entertainers; writers; journalists. They are all people who have made and are making a powerful contribution to human wellbeing.