30 Jun:
Debating Darwin’s Theory

Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, were among the prominent figures discussing Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution at the Oxford University Museum on 30th June 1860; an encounter sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Debate’. 

The confrontation is best remembered for a heated exchange in which Wilberforce supposedly asked Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley is said to have replied that he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how both men came to believe they had ‘won’ the ‘debate’; trace back the origins of the men’s nicknames ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ and ‘Soapy Sam’; and consider whether Darwin himself was keen on causing such controversy…

Further Reading:

• ‘The Great Debate’ (Oxford University Museum of Natural History): https://oumnh.ox.ac.uk/great-debate

• ‘Did Huxley really mop the floor with Wilberforce?’ (National Geographic, 2008): https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/repost-did-huxley-really-mop-the-floor-with-wilberforce

• ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’ (PBS, 2012):


#Science #Victorian #UK