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Nikolaas Tinbergen

Born: 15-Apr-1907
Birthplace: The Hague, Netherlands
Died: 21-Dec-1988
Location of death: Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Cause of death: Stroke

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Zoologist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Grand Master of Ethology

Military service: Nazi Detention (1942-45)

Nikolaas Tinbergen was a Dutch-born British biologist who, together with Konrad Lorenz, founded modern ethology and shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1973. His best known work delved into the response processes of fishes, gulls, and wasps, and in his 1932 doctoral thesis he showed how bee-killer wasps use geographical landmarks to orientate themselves. In collaboration with Lorenz, Tinbergen proposed that what might appear to be the response of individuals to environmental factors is, in many species, instead caused by an animal's genetics and imprinted impulses. Their work established the concept of a fixed-action pattern, a repeated, distinct set of movements or behaviors triggered by events in the animal's environment, a characteristic which Tinbergen and Lorenz held was shared by all members of a species, including the human species.

In 1942, Tinbergen joined numerous faculty members at the University of Leiden in signing a letter protesting the Nazis' occupation of Holland, for which he was almost immediately arrested and imprisoned in a Nazi prison camp. He was released and returned to Leiden two years later, where he was promoted to full professor in 1947. He found the increased administrative duties of his new position distasteful, and in 1949 he took a lower-profile and lower-paying position as a lecturer and researcher at Oxford University, where he spent the rest of his career and became a British subject in 1955.

He also worked as a maker or nature films, wrote children's books, and studied autistic behavior in children. In his work on the latter topic, he asserted that autism may be made more likely by certain behavior by a child's parents, a finding still considered controversial. His students included Richard Dawkins. His brother, Jan Tinbergen, won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1969.

Father: Dirk Cornelis Tinbergen (school principal, b. 1874)
Mother: Jeannette van Eek
Brother: Jan Tinbergen (economist, b. 12-Apr-1903, d. 9-Jun-1994)
Brother: Luuk Tinbergen (ornithologist, b. 7-Sep-1916, d. 1-Sep-1955)
Wife: Elisabeth Rutten ("Lies", b. 1912, m. 14-Apr-1932, d. 1990, three daughters, two sons)

    High School: Second High School, The Hague, Netherlands (1928)
    University: PhD Zoology, University of Leiden (1932)
    Scholar: Biology, University of Leiden (1932-36)
    Lecturer: Experimental Zoology, University of Leiden (1936-47)
    Professor: University of Leiden (1947-49)
    Lecturer: Zoology, Wolfson College, Oxford University (1949-66)
    Professor: Animal Behavior, Wolfson College, Oxford University (1966-74)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1973 (with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz)
    Swammerdam Medal 1973
    Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1964
    Royal Society 1962
    Behaviour Journal Co-Founder, 1948
    Taken Prisoner of War by Nazis, WWII, 9-Sep-1942 to 11-Sep-1945
    Naturalized UK Citizen 1955
    Stroke 21-Dec-1988 (fatal)
    Dutch Ancestry

Author of books:
The Study of Instinct (1951)
The Herring Gull's World (1953)
Social Behavior in Animals (1953)
Curious Naturalists (1958)
Animal Behavior (1965)
The Animal in Its World: Explorations of an Ethologist, 1932-1972 (1972-73, 2 vols.)
Early Childhood Autism: An Ethological Approach (1972, with Elisabeth A. Tinbergen)
Autistic Children: New Hope for A Cure (1986, with Elisabeth A. Tinbergen)


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