"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you
do with what happens to you." - Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was born in Godalming, in the south of England, in 1894. Grandson of the prominent biologist T.H. Huxley and third child of the biographer Leonard Huxley, he was educated at Eton and went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford. As a teenager he became practically blind for two years from keratitis (a condition in which the cornea becomes inflamed which can lead to scarring), which disqualified him from military service.
He wrote his first, unpublished, book in 1916, the same year he graduated from Oxford. After an unsuccessful year teaching at Eton (he is remembered as a hopeless teacher who could not keep discipline) he worked for three years at Athenaeum, a literary and scientific periodical which merged with the left wing The Nation in 1921 (and both merged with The New Statesman in 1931). After leaving Athenaeum in 1921 he devoted himself largely to writing, and spent the best part of the next two decades in Italy with a short period in the 1920s when he worked at the Brunner and Mond chemical plant in the north of England, which partially inspired Brave New World.
He established himself as a major author with his first two published novels, Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923); satires on the pretensions of the contemporary English literary society. Two similar works followed: Those Barren Leaves (1925) and Point Counter Point (1928). But he is undoubtedly best remembered for Brave New World (1932), a vision of a future dystopica in which psychological conditioning supports a scientifically determined and immutable caste system.
In 1937 he moved to Hollywood, California with his wife and son. Soon after his friend Gerald Heard introduced him to Veda-Centric Hinduism; after which most of his writing reflected his growing interest in this philosophy, most notably The Perennial Philosophy (1946). During World War II he also earned some money as a Hollywood writer on films such as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.
Huxley was introduced to the psychedelic drug mescaline in 1953, and became a pioneer of self-directed drug use 'in search for enlightenment', taking his first dose of LSD in 1955. He described his psychedelic drug experiences in a number of essays that were popular with the early hippies. In 1960, five years after his first wife died of cancer and four years after he married his second, he was diagnosed with cancer. He died on 22 November, 1963. Media coverage of his death, and of C.S. Lewis, who died the same day, was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy.
Apparently Aldous (pronounced OLDus or ALDus depending on who you ask) is from Old German meaning old. It has never been a common name in England but can be found occasionally in records dating from the 15th century, usually in the region of East Anglia.
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