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Julian Huxley

  • Julian Huxley was the director of London Zoo from 1935 to 1942 and worked closely with emigrant photographers, artists and architects, including Berthold Lubetkin, Erna Pinner and Wolf Suschitzky.
  • Julian
  • Huxley
  • Sir Julian Sorell Huxley

  • 22-06-1887
  • London (GB)
  • 14-02-1975
  • London (GB)
  • ZoologistPhilosopherWriter
  • Julian Huxley was the director of London Zoo from 1935 to 1942 and worked closely with emigrant photographers, artists and architects, including Berthold Lubetkin, Erna Pinner and Wolf Suschitzky.

    Word Count: 27

  • Editorial by Julian Huxley in the first issue of Animal and Zoo Magazine, no. 1, 1936, p. 6 (METROMOD Archive).
  • In 1935, the zoologist Julian Huxley took up his post as Secretary of the Zoological Society of London and Director of London Zoo, a post he held until 1942. Until now, little attention has been paid to the role Julian Huxley played within the artistic and intellectual emigration of the 1930s. He became a commissioner and mentor, and thus also a driving force for artistic careers.

    Julian Huxley was the grandson of the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, who was a leading supporter of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Julian Huxley was himself a convinced Darwinist, and an advocate of eugenics. From 1946 he played a leading role in the founding of UNESCO and was its first Director-General and, influenced by the effects of two world wars, promoted the idea of “evolutionary humanism” (Huxley 1964; Baker 1978, 38f.). He supported sexual equality between men and women, advocated birth control and the right to divorce – in his time, Huxley was, as Daniel J. Kevles writes, a “feminist of sorts” (Kevles 1992, 244). Marianne Sommer points to the relevance and convergence of the various activities of Huxley, who was active in a wide range of fields with a holistic understanding of his profession – with the aim of education, enlightenment, mediation and propagation (Sommer 2017). In 1948, Julian Huxley was involved in the founding of the first global conservation organisation, the International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN), and a series of articles by Huxley for The Observer newspaper and his interest in African fauna in particular were not insignificant in the founding of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1961 (Sommer 2018, 140f.; Kellaway 2010).

    Particularly characteristic of Huxley’s self-understanding as a zoologist was his approach of conveying complex knowledge about animal development and animal life to as broad an audience as possible. He used various channels (including the media): from the early 1940s, Huxley took part in the BBC radio programme “The Brains Trust”, in which a panel of experts answered questions from the audience. At its most successful, the programme had a market share of 29% of all adult radio listeners and received over 4,000 letters a week (Waters 1992, 10). Huxley was also active in the film business: as director of The Private Life of the Gannets (1934), a short film about gannets on a rocky island off the coast of Wales, produced by Alexander Korda, Huxley won an Academy Award in 1937. In the same year, Huxley was involved in the founding of Zoological Film Productions, a subsidiary of Strand Films (Summer 2018, 136). After the end of the war, he developed a three-part television programme with BBC Television and animal filmmaker and producer David Attenborough (Barrington-Johnson 2005, 133).

    In addition, Huxley co-authored books with writers and photographers that were often aimed at a wide audience, including, for example, the illustrated publication The Science of Life, which he published together with the literary figure H.G. Wells and his son, the biologist G. P. Wells (Barrington-Johnson 2005, 114). In 1938, Julian Huxley, together with the emigrated bio-acoustician Ludwig Koch and the animal photographer Ylla, who lived in Paris and came from Vienna, published the sound book Animal Language, which was devoted to the communication and auditory forms of expression of zoo animals in pictures, text and sound (Huxley/Koch 1938).
    Some years before Huxley worked with Ludwig Koch on Animal Language, he gave commissions to Hans Honigmann, physician, zoologist and director of the Breslau Zoo, who lost his post for “racial” reasons after the National Socialists came to power and was able to emigrate to England in 1935. Honigmann's first job was provided by Julian Huxley at the London Zoo, where he spent 18 months doing research in the zoo laboratory, including on the digestive system of sloths (Huxley 1974, 206).

    Huxley initiated the construction of an Animal Art Studio in the zoo, where art students and freelance artists were given the opportunity to work with live zoo animals. The studio was designed by the emigrant architect Berthold Lubetkin and his group Tecton. Lubetkin had also been responsible, in 1935 – before Huxley's tenure – for designing the zoo’s gorilla house and Penguin Pool (on Lubetkin’s zoo buildings see Allan 2012, 199–251).
    The artist and animal illustrator Erna Pinner also worked with Huxley and contributed a world map of animal species to the 1937 Zoo Guide. The results of her observations of animals in the wild as well as in the zoo are to be found in such books as Wonders of Animal Life (1945) and Curious Creatures (1951). Huxley had a long-standing collaboration with the photographer Wolf Suschitzky, whom he met while filming in the zoo grounds in the 1930s. Suschitzky contributed photographs for Lorna Lewis’s book The Children’s Zoo (1939), which was dedicated to the zoo for children set up by Huxley. He also contributed to the Animal and Zoo Magazine, founded by Julian Huxley in 1936, which was published until 1941 and for which Suschitzky provided cover photos and photographs for the inside section. Wolf Suschitzky and Julian Huxley also kept in touch in later years. In 1956, their joint book Kingdom of the Beasts was published by Thames & Hudson, which brings together Wolf Suschitzky's animal and zoo photographs from previous decades.
    Huxley’s interest above all in the common origin of apes and humans led to a collaboration with the Berlin doctor and palm reader Charlotte Wolff, who emigrated to London via Paris. For her book Studies in Hand Reading (Chatto & Windus, 1936), Wolff read the hand of Julian Huxley and his brother, the writer Aldous Huxley, among others. On behalf of the zoo, she applied chirology to the primates at London Zoo. Elaborate imprinting techniques were used for Wolff's project. Charlotte Wolff published her results in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (Wolff 1937; Wolff 1938).

    Precisely because of his various public activities and his various efforts to communicate knowledge either to specialists or to the public, Huxley was long perceived in research as a “public scientist” rather than a “research scientist” (Waters 1992, 22). But it was Julian Huxley's appearance as a public intellectual that made him an important, popular supporter of the émigré community. In 1937, he chaired the Farewell Dinner for Walter Gropius, with émigré guests such as Ernst L. Freud, László Moholy-Nagy and Nikolaus Pevsner. In the newsletter Freie Deutsche Kultur of the Free German League of Culture, Julian Huxley published an encouraging greeting to the members in October 1941: “The Free German League of Culture has accomplished a considerable amount of valuable work in stimulating cultural activities among Germans in Great Britain and in linking these up with British activities. I hope that it will continue to flourish and carry on with its useful work.” (Freie Deutsche Kultur, October 1941, 1).

    Word Count: 1092

  • Charlotte Wolff. Studies in Hand-Reading. Chatto & Windus, 1936, p. 77: Reading Julian and Aldous Huxley’s hands (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    Charlotte Wolff. “The Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Hands and Feet of certain Anthropoid Apes”. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Series A, 1937, Part 3, 347 + Plate (Library of the Zoological Institute, University of Hamburg). At the zoo’s behest, Charlotte Wolff applied chirology to the primates at London Zoo.
    Julian Huxley and Ludwig Koch. Animal Language. Photographs by Ylla. Country Life, 1938, cover (METROMOD Archive). Two records of animal voices were included with this sound book.
    Erna Pinner. “Map of geographical distribution.” Julian S. Huxley. Zoo. Official Guide to the Gardens and Aquarium of the Zoological Society of London, 1937, pp. 102–103 (ZSL Library, London, Original © Erna Pinner).
    Julian Huxley and Wolf Suschitzky. Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames & Hudson, 1956, pp. 157–158 (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky)
    László Moholy-Nagy, Bill of Fare, farewell dinner menu for Walter Gropius, London, March 1937: List of Toasts naming Julian Huxley as chairman of the event (Pritchard Papers, University of East Anglia, @ László Moholy-Nagy).
    “Young Artists in the Zoo” reads the headline to this photo essay on the Animal Art Studio at London Zoo, published in the Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 2, no. 11, 1938, p. 18–19 (METROMOD Archive).
  • Allan, John. Berthold Lubetkin: Architecture and the Tradition of Progress. Artifice, 2012.

    Baker, J. R. Julian Huxley. Homme de science et citoyen du monde 1887–1975. UNESCO, 1978.

    Barrington-Johnson, J. The Zoo. The Story of London Zoo. Robert Hale, 2005.

    Huxley, Julian. “Die Grundgedanken des evolutionären Humanismus.” Julian Huxley. Der evolutionäre Humanismus. Zehn Essays über die Leitgedanken und Probleme, Beck, 1964, pp. 13–70.

    Huxley, Julian. Ein Leben für die Zukunft. Erinnerungen. Translated by Wilhelm Höck, Paul List Verlag, 1974.

    Huxley, Julian, and Ludwig Koch. Animal Language. Photographs by Ylla. Country Life, 1938.

    Kellaway, Kate. “How the Observer brought the WWF into being.” The Observer, 7 November 2010, Accessed 22 March 2021.

    Kevles, Daniel J. “Huxley and the Popularization of Science.” Julian Huxley. Biologist and Statesman of Science, edited by C. Kenneth Waters and Albert Van Helden, Rice University Press, 1992, pp. 238–251.

    Sommer, Marianne. “Animal Sounds against the Noise of Modernity and War: Julian Huxley (1887–1975) and the Preservation of the Sonic World Heritage.” 19 January 2017, Journal of Sonic Studies, vol. 13, no. 13, 2017, Accessed 3 April 2021.

    Sommer, Marianne. “Tierstimmen gegen den Lärm von Krieg und Moderne. Julian Huxley und das akustische Erbe in Soundbook, Film und Comic.” Zwitschern, Bellen, Röhren. Tierlaute in der Wissens-, Medientechnik- und Musikgeschichte, edited by Marianne Sommer and Denise Reimann, Neofelis, 2018, pp. 113–143.

    Suschitzky, Wolf and Julian Huxley. Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames and Hudson, 1956.

    Waters, C. Kenneth. “Introduction: Revising Our Picture of Julian Huxley.” Julian Huxley. Biologist and Statesman of Science, edited by C. Kenneth Waters and Albert Van Helden, Rice University Press, 1992, pp. 1–27.

    Wolff, Charlotte. “The Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Hands and Feet of certain Anthropoid Apes.” Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, vol. 107, Series A, Part 3, September 1937, pp. 347–350. ZSL, doi: Accessed 3 April 2021.

    Wolff, Charlotte. “A Comparative Study of the Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Extremities of Primates.” Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, vol. 108, Series A, Part 1, April 1938, pp. 143–161. ZSL, doi: Accessed 7 March 2021.

    Wolff, Charlotte. Augenblicke verändern uns mehr als die Zeit. Eine Autobiographie. Translated by Michaela Huber, Beltz Verlag, 1982.

    Word Count: 349

  • Julian Sorell Huxley Papers, 1899–1980, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

    Word Count: 11

  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • London Zoo, Outer Circle, London NW1 (workplace and residence).

  • London
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Julian Huxley." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 12-05-2021.
  • László Moholy-Nagy
    PhotographerGraphic DesignerPainterSculptor

    László Moholy-Nagy emigrated to London in 1935, where he worked in close contact with the local avantgarde and was commissioned for window display decoration, photo books, advertising and film work.

    Word Count: 30

    Wolf Suschitzky

    The Viennese Wolf Suschitzky made a career as a photographer and cinematographer after emigrating to London in 1935.

    Word Count: 17

    Herbert Read
    Art HistorianArt CriticPoet

    The British art historian Herbert Read established himself as a central figure in the London artistic scene in the 1930s and was one of the outstanding supporters of exiled artists.

    Word Count: 30

    Curious Creatures

    Curious Creatures by the émigré artist Erna Pinner was published in 1951 and explores unusual, overlooked and lesser-known curiosities of the animal world.

    Word Count: 22

    Animal Language
    Sound Book

    In 1938, the London publisher Country Life published the Animal Language sound book which featured text by Julian Huxley, audio records produced by Ludwig Koch and photographs by Ylla.

    Word Count: 28

    Freie Deutsche Kultur

    The Free German League of Culture was an association of emigrant artists and authors who organised exhibitions, concerts and lectures. The events were announced in the Freie Deutsche Kultur newsletter.

    Word Count: 30

    Studies in Hand-Reading

    In 1936, Charlotte Wolff’s Studies in Hand-Reading was published with analysis of the palms of Horst P. Horst, Aldous and Julian Huxley, Man Ray and Virginia Woolf, among others.

    Word Count: 29

    Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things

    Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things is a booklet written in 1946 by the emigrated architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner with the aim of aesthetic education and teacher training.

    Word Count: 26

    Farewell Dinner for Walter Gropius

    Friends and colleagues came together on 9 March 1937 to send off the architect Walter Gropius and his wife Ise Gropius, who had decided to leave for the United States.

    Word Count: 28

    Allies inside Germany

    On 3 July 1942, the Allies inside Germany exhibition, organised by the Free German League of Culture, opened in London in an empty shop at 149 Regent Street.

    Word Count: 25

    20th Century German Art

    The 20th Century German Art exhibition of 1938 gave visibility to artists who had been defamed at the Munich exhibition Entartete Kunst and were persecuted by the National Socialist regime.

    Word Count: 29

    Isokon Company
    Architecture and Furniture Company

    The furniture design and architecture company Isokon was an important commissioner for emigrants such as Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, Ernst Riess and Edith Tudor-Hart.

    Word Count: 27

    New York

    Ylla was an Austrian-born photographer who emigrated to New York in 1941. Specialising in animal photography, she produced not only studio photographs, but also shot outside on urban locations in the metropolis.

    Word Count: 31

    Thames & Hudson
    Publishing House

    The emigrants Eva Feuchtwang (later Eva Neurath) and Walter Neurath founded the Thames & Hudson publishing house in 1949, which published art history books, photo books and collection catalogues.

    Word Count: 28