Our second great-grandfather Leonard Huxley (1860-1933) was born at the apex of England’s Victorian era, and gained from its slow liberalization and new attention to rationalism, but never bucked the system. With T.H. Huxley for a father, he did not suffer for education.  At age 10 he was enrolled at University College School, London, then at St. Andrews University, and finally at Balliol College, Oxford.

Leonard enjoyed a schoolmaster career at Charterhouse in Surrey from 1884 to 1901, living at a house called Laleham (the house was destroyed in 1973, according to a biography).  The school boasts a 400-year history of educating England’s elite, and its curriculum is well established in Protestant educational principles.  While his father’s rejection of religion was well advertised throughout England, Leonard seemed to have no trouble at the school.

Many biographers remark upon Leonard’s role as the progenitor of extraordinary children who built upon their grandfather’s legendary status and cemented the Huxley name as an intellectual powerhouse.  While at least one biographer probably goes too far by crediting Huxley “genes” for the family’s feats, this unusual series of successful children understandably attracts some wonder.

Leonard Huxley with son, Julian
Leonard Huxley with his son Julian.  Credit: Unattributed.

In 1885, Leonard married Julia Arnold (unknown-1908), daughter of Tom Arnold. She was a sister of the novelist Mrs. Humphry Ward, niece of the poet Matthew Arnold, and granddaughter of Thomas Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby School.  In her youth she and her sister Ethel inspired Lewis Carroll to invent word ladder. Oxford-educated herself, Julia founded a girls’ school called Prior’s Field, which was very successful and survives today.

Leonard and Julia had the following children together:

  1. Margaret Arnold Huxley, b. 1899
  2. Julian Sorell Huxley, 1887-1975.  Julian became the first Director-General of UNESCO. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society, co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund, and president of the British Eugenics Society. He presided over the founding conference for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He wrote fifty books, including “The Science of Life.” His master-work Evolution: The Modern Synthesis gave the name to a mid-century movement which united biological theory and overcame problems caused by over-specialization.  Julian married Juliette Baillot in 1919. They had two children, and both became scientists: Anthony Julian Huxley, a botanist and horticulturalist, and Francis Huxley, an anthropologist.
  3. Noel Trevenen Huxley, 1889-1914
  4. Aldous Leonard Huxley, 1894-1963.  Aldous was a novelist and philosopher focusing on dystopia.  His main works include Crome Yellow (1921), Antic Hay (1923), Brave New World (1932), Eyeless in Gaza (1936) and Island (1960). Huxley also wrote many essays, including The Doors of Perception. Aldous married twice, to Maria Nys (1919), and after her death, to Laura Archera (1956). His only child, Matthew Huxley (1920-2005) was also an author.

In 1900, Leonard Huxley launched a successful career as a biographer. His first biography, three volumes of Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, received critical acclaim. In 1901 he became the assistant editor of Cornhill Magazine and became its editor in 1916.

Leonard Huxley with in-laws
An undated photo shows Leonard Huxley with his wife and in-laws.  Credit: Huxley family collection.

After the death of Julia Arnold due to cancer in 1908, Leonard moved to Bayswater, London.  In 1912 he married Rosalind Bruce, daughter of William Wallace Bruce, who claimed ancestry to Robert Bruce.  They had two children together:

  1. David Bruce Huxley, 1915-1992; married Anne Remsen Schenck (1918-1993) in June 1939.  David and Anne are our direct ancestors.
  2. Andrew Fielding Huxley, 1917-2012.  Andrew was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for studies of the central nervous system. He was knighted in 1974 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1983. He was the second Huxley to be President of the Royal Society. In 1947 he married Jocelyn Richenda Gammell Pease (1925–2003), the daughter of the geneticist Michael Pease. They had one son and five daughters: Janet Rachel Huxley (born 1948); Stewart Leonard Huxley (born 1949); Camilla Rosalind Huxley (born 1952); Eleanor Bruce Huxley (born 1959); Henrietta Catherine Huxley (born 1960); Clare Marjory Pease Huxley (born 1962).

Leonard continued to publish successful biographies and other books – notably his 1918 Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, his 1920 Charles Darwin biography, and his 1926 Progress and the Unfit.  This last book – an examination of the merits of eugenics – has drawn much criticism.

Leonard Huxley died on 3 May 1933 in London and is buried at Compton Village Cemetery, Compton, Surrey.

Leonard Andrew David 1920s
Leonard with his sons David and Andrew in the 1920s.  Credit: Unattributed.