- Tinbergen , Nikolaas
- (1907–1988) Dutch–British zoologist and ethologistTinbergen was born in The Hague, the Dutch capital, and educated at Leiden University, where he gained his doctorate in 1932 for a thesis on insect behavior. Soon after he joined a Dutch meteorological expedition to East Greenland. The results of his Arctic year observing huskies, buntings, and phalaropes were later described in his Curious Naturalists (1958). In 1936 Tinbergen was appointed lecturer in experimental zoology at Leiden. Contact with Konrad Lorenz in 1937 led to an early collaboration. Tinbergen's work, however, was interrupted by the war. He refused to cooperate with plans to Nazify Leiden University and was consequently imprisoned in a concentration camp from 1942 to 1944. Although he was appointed a full professor by Leiden in 1947, Tinbergen chose to move to Oxford in 1947 to escape administrative duties. Here he took up the more junior post of lecturer in animal behavior. Tinbergen remained in Oxford until his retirement in 1974, having been appointed professor in animal behavior in 1966. He became a naturalized British subject in 1954.Tinbergen demonstrated that ethology was basically an observational and experimental science. Unlike Lorenz, who tended to work with a large number of pets, Tinbergen worked with animals in their natural setting. Much of his early work dealt with identifying the mechanisms by which animals found their way around. How, for example, does a digger wasp recognize its burrow? In a few simple experiments with nothing more elaborate than a handful of pine cones, Tinbergen was able to show that the wasps were guided by the spatial arrangement of landmarks at the nest entrance. He also studied the social control of behavior in his work on the mating habits of sticklebacks.Much of this early work was brought together in his classic text,The Study of Instinct (Oxford, 1951). In his other major work,The Herring Gull's World (London, 1953), Tinbergen began by recognizing the diversity of behavioral signals found in different species of gulls. Such a diversity had as much an evolutionary origin and history as more obvious anatomical features. Tinbergen set out to recover some of this history.In his later years Tinbergen attempted to apply some of the principles of ethology to problems in human behavior. In particular, he worked with autistic children, publishing his results in Autistic Children (1983), a book he wrote in collaboration with his wife.For his achievements in the field of animal behavior Tinbergen shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine with Lorenz and Frisch. His brother Jan Tinbergen had been awarded the Nobel Prize for economics four years earlier.
Scientists. Academic. 2011.