- Frisch , Karl von
- (1886–1982) Austrian zoologist, entomologist, and ethologistFrisch was born in Vienna, Austria, and educated at home and at convent school. He began his academic career by studying medicine at the University of Vienna, but gave this up to study zoology at the Zoological Institute in Munich, an internationally recognized center for research in experimental zoology. He also studied marine biology at the Trieste Biological Institute for Marine Research, taking his PhD for work on the color adaptation and light perception of minnows (1910). Frisch taught at the Munich Zoological Institute and in 1919 became assistant professor of zoology. He then held academic posts at the universities of Rostock and Breslau before returning to Munich in 1925 as director of the Zoological Institute where he continued to work until the end of World War II. In 1946 he assumed the chair of zoology at Graz but returned to Munich where he remained until his retirement in 1958.Interested in animals from childhood, Frisch devoted 40 years to an intense study of the senses, communication, and social organization of honey (or hive) bees. By means of ingenious experiments he showed that bees can find their way back to the hive, even when the sun is obscured by cloud, by using polarized or ultraviolet light, and that they are able to communicate discovery of a new food source by means of a special “dance.” The bee performs its dance on the vertical surface of the comb. Depending on the distance of the food supply, the bee may perform either the round dance – food within about 80 feet (24 m) – or the tail-wagging dance – food beyond about 325 feet (99 m). At intermediate distances various transitional dance forms between these are seen. In the tail-wagging dance the bee makes a straight run over a short distance, wagging its abdomen rapidly, and then makes a semicircle back to the starting point. This movement is repeated, making a semicircle in the opposite direction. The dance gives information on the direction of the food supply because the angle that the straight run makes with the vertical surface of the comb is the same as the angle between the direction of the food and the Sun at the hive or nest.Frisch also showed that the bees are unable to distinguish between certain shapes, that they have a limited range of color perception, but can see light of shorter wavelength than man. They do not, for example, distinguish red but can see ultraviolet, which is reflected by many flowers. Red poppies are seen as wholly ultraviolet, while many yellow flowers are seen either as yellow or in varying shades of ultraviolet. Frisch's discoveries have proved of practical benefit to beekeepers in that if hives are painted certain colors – a yellow hive next to a blue one for example – this aids the bees' homing. His major contribution to ethology was recognized in 1973 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, jointly with Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen. His books include The Dancing Bees(1927, trans. 1954) and Animal Architecture (1974).
Scientists. Academic. 2011.