Nikolaas Tinbergen

Nikolaas Tinbergen (* 15. April 1907 into the Hague, † 21. December 1988 in Oxford) was an important Netherlands behavior biologist. 1955 it accepted the British nationality. Together with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz Tinbergen 1973 received to the “Nobelpreis for physiology or medicine ".

Together with Patrick Bateson, Robert Hinde and William Thorpe he contributed after the Second World War considerably to establish the still recent biological field of activity of behavior biology in Great Britain.

Table of contents

personal record

its parents were Dirk C. Tinbergen and Jeanette van Eek. January Tinbergen, one of its four brothers and sisters, received the Nobelpreis for economic science to 1969. Already as pupils Nikolaas Tinbergen showed up as inspired animal observers and plant collecting tanks.

1925 visited Tinbergen professor J. Tienemann, founder the bird control room jokes and initiator of the Vogelberingung; at other opportunity he spent several months on the bird control room Rossitten (East Prussia). The observation of the moving courses of the birds in the autumn caused it to begin the study of biology at the University of suffering where it received 1932 its first diploma. Further study places were Vienna and Yale.

Lively by the bee attempts of Karl von Frisch it attained a doctorate 1932; its first scientific work in the area of the behavior research was a study over a colony of grave wasps (Philanthus) and its orientation behavior in the proximity of the nest.

it lives 1932/33 in the context of the international polar yearly with his wife, Elizabeth Rutten, in Angmagssalik, the homeland of a small isolated Eskimo trunk.

Starting from 1936 Tinbergen in suffering informs comparing anatomy and furnishes a course over the behavior of the animals.

Likewise 1936 met Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz with a symposium over instincts in suffering for the first time. This was the beginning of a long and intensive co-operation; Konrad Lorenz called Tinbergen up to its death its best friend.

With a longer stay with Konrad Lorenz in old person mountain with Vienna it met Dr. Alfred Seitz (attraction sum rule).

1937 visited Tinbergen Karl von Frisch in Munich.

During the war Tinbergen was arrested starting from 1942 two years in Germany, because he had protested against the dismissal of three Jewish professors. After the war it received a Professur for experimental Zoologie to 1947 in suffering. To guest lectures in the USA (1947) it went 1949 to Oxford, where it remained and was active from 1966 to 1974 as a professor for animal behavior at the zoo-logical department of the university. In Oxford it created also the magazine “Behavior” and took part in the establishment of the Serengeti of research institute.

With a stay in the USA it met Ernst Mayr, who had crucial influence on its interest in evolution and ecology.

scientific meaning

Nico Tinbergen is considered as one the founder of the classical comparative behavior research, which was called to end of the 1940er-Jahre also animal psychology. It concerned itself particularly with the evolutionary origins many social trips and their Ritualisierung. Particularly admits became his publications over Stichlinge, silver sea gulls and butterflies, whose findings are however disputed in the meantime. The interpretation of its behavior observations within the reference framework of the instinct theory was analyzed critically in the 1980-he 1980 particularly by Hanna Maria Zippelius at the University of Bonn and disproved partly experimentally.

Tinbergen calls humans a instinct-reduced nature.

Tinbergen was convinced of the fact that a better understanding of aggressive behavior can supply important conclusions over behaviors of humans with animals. In its last years it followed also to the questions of the earlychildlike Autismus . It held the opinion that the Verweigerung of the establishment of contact with the environment is to due not to brain damage, but to trauma tables experiences into in former times childhood.

Not only pointing the way for the behavior research but for biology as natural science its four explanation levels were general:

With a biological phenomenon the always following four aspects are to be examined:

  • proximate causation (Proximate causes, effect causes, of lat proximus, the next one): Clearing-up of the mechanisms.
  • ultimate function (Ultimate causes, purpose causes, of lat. ultimus, the latter): Investigation of the function and the selection value for the organism.
  • ontogenetic development (ontogenetische development). Clarifying the mechanisms of the development of a phenomenon in the course of the life of an individual.
  • evolutionary development (phylogenetische development): Clarifying the mechanisms of the development of a phenomenon in the course of the evolution.


  • 1951 The Study OF Instinct - Oxford, Clarendon press
  • 1953 The Herring Gull's World - London, Collins
  • 1958 Curious Naturalists - London, Country would run
  • 1972 The Animal in its World of volume. 1. - London, all & Unwin; Harvard University press
  • 1973 The Animal in its World of volume. 2. - London, all & Unwin; Harvard University press
  • 1972 (together with E. A. Tinbergen) Early Childhood Autism - at Ethological Approach - Berlin, Parey


  • smelling pool of broadcasting corporations W. Burkhardt: Patterns OF Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Foundation OF Ethology. University OF Chicago press, 2005, ISBN 0226080900 (PAPER baking version)


  • Member of the Royal Society (1962)
  • member of the royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1964)
  • award the university of Edinburgh (1973)
  • award the January Swammerdam medal of the society for nature and medicine in Amsterdam (1973
  • together with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz receive Tinbergen 1973 the Nobelpreis in medicine for the discoveries to organization and release of individual and social behavior patterns.

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| | * Literature of and over Nikolaas Tinbergen in the catalog of the DDB



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