The Lengthening Shadow of One Man
Pioneers of the science of ethology.
Lorenz (1903 to 1989).
B, Karl von Frisch (1886
C, Niko Tinbergen (1907 to 1988).
People always have been fascinated by the behavior of animals.
For as long as people have walked the earth, their
lives have been touched by, indeed interwoven with, the
lives of other animals. People hunted animals, fished them,
domesticated them, ate them and were eaten by them, made
pets of them, revered them, hated and feared them, immortalized
them in art, song, and verse, fought them, and loved
them. The very survival of ancient people depended on
knowledge of wild animals’ habits and behaviors. As the
hunting societies of primitive people gave way to agricultural
civilizations, an awareness was retained of the interrelationship
with other animals, and the need to understand their
behaviors increased. Even today zoos attract more visitors
than ever before; wildlife television shows are increasingly
popular; game-watching safaris to Africa constitute a thriving
enterprise; and millions of pet animals share the cities
with us—more than a half million pet dogs live in New York
Despite our long-standing interest in the behavior of
animals, the science of animal behavior is a newcomer to
biology. Charles Darwin, with the uncanny insight of genius,
prepared for the reception of animal behavior by showing
how natural selection would favor specialized behavioral
patterns for survival. Darwin’s pioneering book, The Expression
of the Emotions of Man and Animals,
1872, mapped a strategy for behavioral research still in use
today. However science in 1872 was unprepared for Darwin’s
central insight that behavioral patterns, no less than
bodily structures, are selected and have evolutionary histories.
Another 60 years would pass before such concepts
would begin to flourish within behavioral science.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that an institution
is the lengthening shadow of one man. For Charles Darwin
the shadow is long indeed, for he brought into being
entire fields of knowledge, such as evolution, ecology, and
finally, after a long gestation, animal behavior. Above all, he
altered the way we think about ourselves, the earth we
inhabit, and the animals that share it with us.
In 1973, the Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine was awarded to three pioneering
zoologists, Karl von Frisch,
Konrad Lorenz, and Niko Tinbergen
(Figure 38-1). The citation stated that
these three were the principal architects
of the new science of ethology,
the scientific study of animal behavior,
particularly under natural conditions. It
was the first time any contributor to
the behavioral sciences was so honored,
and it meant that the discipline of
animal behavior, which really has its
roots in the work of Charles Darwin,