|ethology, imprinting, animal behavior
biography, Niko Tinbergen, Nobel Prize, animal behaviour
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Konrad Lorenz (Konrad Zacharias Lorenz) was born on November 7, 1903 in Vienna, Austria. As a little boy, he loved animals and had a collection that
included fish, dogs, monkeys, insects, ducks, and geese. His interest in animal behaviour was intense.
When he was 10 years old, Lorenz became aware of the existence of the Theory of Evolution through reading a book by Wilhelm
Bölsche in which he was fascinated by a picture of an Archaeopteryx. Evolution gave him insight - his father had
explained that the word "insect" was derived
from the notches, the "incisions" between the segments - if reptiles could become birds, annelid worms could develop
As he grew towards adulthood he wanted to become a paleontologist, however, he reluctantly followed his father's wishes, and studied medicine at the University of Vienna and at Columbia University. He later regarded this compliance to have been in his own best interests as one of his teachers of anatomy, Ferdinand Hochstetter, proved to be a brilliant comparative anatomist and embryologist and a dedicated teacher of the comparative method. Lorenz quickly realized that comparative anatomy and embryology offered a better access to the problems of evolution than paleontology did, and that the comparative method was as applicable to behaviour patterns as it was to anatomical structure. He maintained his deep interest in animal behaviour during his medical studies, making detailed observations of a jackdaw in a diary that was later published in a prestigious journal of ornithology.
He gained a degree in medicine in 1929 and was awarded a doctorate in zoology from the University of Munich in 1936. He had published his famous study of imprinting in young ducklings and goslings in 1935. In these times Lorenz's work attracted enough notice for the Kaiser-Wilhelmsgesellschaft, (later renamed Max-Planck-Gesellschaft), to decide to found an institute for the physiology of behaviour for himself and another promising researcher named Erich von Holst. In the autumn of 1936 he was introduced to Niko Tinbergen at a symposium held at Leiden in the Netherlands. The two realised that they had much in common in terms of their interest in animal behaviour. In 1939 he was appointed to the Chair of Psychology in Köningsberg.
His career as an academic in Austrian and German universities was interrupted by the Second World War. From 1941 he served as a doctor in the German army, but became a prisoner of war in 1942. Serving as a doctor under the Russian authorities in Armenia and elsewhere he was not released for repatriation to Austria until 1948.
Lorenz now found it impossible to get a really worthwhile academic post in Austria but after several months received an offer of a lectureship from the University of Bristol through the intervention of English contacts. He accepted this offer but his receipt of another offer from the Max Planck Institute that would allow him to continue to be associated with a group of friends with whom he was already involved in a smaller scale scientific project caused him to instead relocate, with several of these friends, to Buldern in Westfalia.
From 1961 to 1973 he was the director of the Max Planck Institute for Behaviour Physiology, in Seewiesen, Germany. In 1973 Lorenz, together with Karl von Frisch and Niko Tinbergen, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning animal behavioural patterns.
Konrad Lorenz is considered to be one of the principal founders of ethology, a branch of science that attempts to gain a deeper insight of behavioral patterns in animals. With Oscar Heinroth (the author of "Die Vögel Mitteleuropas"), he is held to have discovered imprinting, an especially rapid and relatively irreversible learning process that occurs early in the individual's life where auditory and visual stimuli from an animal's parents are needed to induce the young to follow their parents. A central concept complementary to imprinting is the innate release mechanism, whereby organisms are genetically predisposed to be especially responsive to certain stimuli such that imprinting will become fixed on the parents.
Some of his views are expressed in the popular book On Aggression (tr. 1966). Here he asserts that human aggressive impulses are to a degree innate, and draws analogies between human and animal territorial behaviour. These assertions have engendered considerable controversy.
He also wrote King Solomons Ring which has received a wide and interested readership.
Dr Lorenz died in 1989.
The answer to this question seems to raise deep, but interesting,
issues associated with Human Existence and even with
the Faith versus Reason Debate itself.
"...man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Human Beings are "social beings" and it seems highly likely that individual Human-innate
"bundles of relations and knots of roots"
give rise to the "World" of Human Societies!!!
Konrad Lorenz biography
Ethology - Imprinting page