At birth, Aldous Huxley immediately found himself surrounded by England’s Literary and Scientific elite. His father, Leonard Huxley was teaching classic literature at Charterhouse School in Surry England. Leonard later wrote biographies on Robert Scott, Charles Darwin, and his own father Thomas Henry Huxley. Aldous’s grandfather, biologist Thomas Henry Huxley or as he was better known as, “Darwin’s Bulldog”; was an avid defender of evolution and a supporter of Charles Darwin. His mother Judith or Julia Arnold was the granddaughter of Dr. Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School and the niece of English Poet Matthew Arnold. His older brother Julian followed his grandfather’s example and become an excellent biologist, philosopher, and educator. Huxley’s half brother Andrew went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Born during the height of Victorian era in England, Aldous Leonard Huxley came into this world on July 26 1894, in Godalming, Surrey England.
Educated at home by his mother, Aldous attended Eton and after graduating Balliol College, Oxford in 1916, Huxley started his career as a writer and an author. Starting as a journalist, writing primarily satire, Huxley’s later works offered more in depth thoughts about politics, society, and psychology. Aldous Huxley’s first full-length novel Chrome Yellow, written in 1921, continued in a similar satirical vein. During the 1920s and 30s Huxley spent much of his time traveling the world visiting the United States, India, and Europe, spending much of it in Italy during the rise of Fascism. It was in this setting in 1932 that he wrote his classic novel, “A Brave New World.” In 1937, Huxley immigrated to the United States and settled in California.
Huxley’s works at this juncture, started to move towards a more philosophical and psychedelic in nature. 1954 he wrote “The Doors of Perception,” displaying his interest in Hindu philosophy and the hallucinogenic drug mescaline, which influenced his writings for the remainder of his life. Huxley was a prolific author, writing over 60 books ranging from social commentary, science, and philosophy. He married twice and had one child. He died on November 22 in Los Angeles, California.
It was during Huxley’s time at Eton that two major events occurred that changed young Aldous’s life. His mothers death of cancer when he was 14, “gave him a sense of the transience of human happiness.” Two years later, he developed an eye disease that left him blind for nearly two years. Upon recovering some of his sight, Aldous Huxley went on to Oxford, when another tragedy struck his family. His brother Trevenen committed suicide and the unfolding of World War I saw the young men of his generation slaughtered in the millions. These events, especially the blindness showed Huxley in a harsh way that in spite of his education, status, and wealth his blindness severely limited the choices and opportunities that he could make in life.
Often compared with writers like Moore, Voltaire, and Orwell; Huxley’s writings serve as warnings to the social conscience about how technology in the form of genetics can, when in the hands of a few individuals, be turned into a nightmare that we still fear today. Nancy Parker writes in her book, “Double Helix” about what could possibly become the beginnings “A Brave New World” dominated by a few who have the technology controlling the world. A deeper question that arises as we cross the horizon where gene manipulation that could either divide us into a world of leaders, consumers, workers, or even immortals; is should we?
In many ways his book, “A Brave New World” Aldous Huxley shows how Huxley’s relationship with grandfather and brother influenced his writing in the area of science and technology. His grandfather’s view of evolution profoundly influenced his thoughts that shaped the foundations of the various groups he wrote about in “A Brave New World.” In turn, Huxley has inspired many futurists to contemplate the questions that science, technology and ethics face us today.
“Aldous Huxley.” Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, Volume 6: Modern Writers, 1914-1945. Gale Research, 1991.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2005. http://galenet.galegroup.com.ezp1r.riosalado.edu/servlet/BioRC
Document Number: K1655000106
A., Matthew. “Aldous Huxley: The Author and his Times.” somaweb.org. 1995-2005.
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“Aldous Huxley.” The New Encyclopædia Britannica. 15th ed. 1992
Aldous Huxley: The Author and his Times