I have a passage which introduces a contemporary scientist as "Darwin's bulldog". What is that?

  • Probably Darwin’s watchdog in a figurative sense.
    – user 66974
    Apr 9 '20 at 20:08
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    The English bulldog was bred for a sport, bull-baiting, in which several dogs would fight a bull. The bulldog was bred for courage and aggression, and not for 'watchdog' type qualities. Apr 9 '20 at 20:43
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    Is this him? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Henry_Huxley This is what comes up if you google "Darwin's bulldog"
    – user13267
    Apr 10 '20 at 5:21
  • Why not cite the passage you got this from so that people get more context?
    – user13267
    Apr 10 '20 at 5:22
  • @user13267 I could verify the present answers, so I'm done.
    – infatuated
    Apr 10 '20 at 6:39

I was going to point you at a dictionary, but I haven't found one that has this meaning (even the OED).

It is an extension of the meaning "[a person] that possesses the obstinate courage of the bulldog."

Here it means that he is obstinate and probably aggressive in defending Darwin: acting as a sort of guard dog.

Edit: as pointed out by Michael Harvey in a comment, it is more than this. Huxley was known for actively attacking opponents of Darwin, and described himself as "Darwin's bulldog".

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    I might go further and suggest that T.H. Huxley (for it was he) emulated the bulldog in attacking opponents of Darwin, as Darwin's proxy, rather than just 'guarding' him. He actually said "I am Darwin's bulldog". The bulldog was bred as an attack dog (against bulls). Apr 9 '20 at 20:40
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    And do try googling Darwin’s bulldog: Thomas Henry Huxley PC FRS HonFRSE FLS (4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895) was an English biologist and anthropologist specialising in comparative anatomy. He is known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.[2]
    – Xanne
    Apr 10 '20 at 3:10
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    I understand it the same way @MichaelHarvey does: it’s more than just guarding – it’s actual, aggressive proselytising. Advocacy rather than just defence. Apr 10 '20 at 8:58

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