The early transhumanists

Jules Evans
17 min readApr 4, 2022
HG Wells (left), Gip Wells (centre) and Julian Huxley, the three authors of The Science of Life

This is the 15th entry in my Spiritual Eugenics project, which looks at the overlap between New Age spirituality and eugenics. For a definition of these terms, an intro to the project, and preceding chapters, go here.

In this chapter, we will look at how Julian Huxley and his peers developed the religious creed which he would later call Transhumanism, and how their visions of scientific utopia inspired his brother’s humorous novel, Brave New World.

We left Julian in the 1920s, working in academia as a young biologist, recovering from a bad nervous breakdown, and looking for a new religion of humanity based on science and evolution. He was already showing signs of seeking a more public role than a life in the lab.

His first brush with fame came in 1920, when he published the findings of some experiments with axolotls, an amphibian creature with unusual capacities for regeneration. Unlike most amphibians, the axolotl doesn’t usually metaphorphosize into a land animal, remaining permanently juvenile and aquatic. Julian found he could induce metamorphosis by injecting the axolotl with ox thyroid. The Daily Mail declared that the young Huxley had discovered ‘the elixir of life’, to the embarrassment of Julian’s colleagues. His success raised an interesting question — could scientists discover a drug that speeds up humans’ metamorphosis into superhumans?

Another unusual foray from academia was Julian’s attempt at science fiction. In 1926, he published a short story called ‘The Tissue Culture King’, which would first appear in the Yale Review and then in the more pulpy Amazing Tales, alongside HG Wells’ War of the Worlds. In Julian’s story, the narrator comes across an African tribe, filled with biological monstrosities like two-headed frogs. He encounters a British man living with the tribe — Hascombe, who was ‘lately research worker at Middlesex Hospital’ and is now ‘religious advisor to King Mgbobe’ (note the similarity to Aldous’ last novel, Island, a utopia where the tribe’s religion is based on the theories of a visiting British scientist).

Jules Evans