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|Title: ||Tinbergian Practice, themes and variations: the field and laboratory methods and practice of the Animal Behaviour Research Group under Nikolaas Tinbergen at Oxford University|
|Authors: ||Beale, Graeme Robert|
|Supervisor(s): ||Sturdy, Steve|
|Issue Date: ||2009|
|Publisher: ||The University of Edinburgh|
|Abstract: ||This thesis investigates the work of Nikolaas (Niko) Tinbergen and his students,
often known as the Tinbergians. Based on extensive archival research, and
particularly on intensive study of fieldnotes – a resource largely untouched in
previous historical enquiry – I throw new light on the scientific practices both of
Tinbergen himself and the practices of individual students of his, including the
relationship between research in the field and in the laboratory and the relationship
between that research and the Tinbergians representation of their science, both to
scientific and lay audiences.
Chapter one investigates Tinbergen's own background, and his writings on method
and practice. This included a commitment to studying 'natural' behaviour, which led
them to be wary of experimental methods that might distort such behaviour.
Tinbergen's idea of the 'ethogram' – a complete listing of the behavioural repertoire
of a species – is here linked to earlier interest in comparative anatomy as a means of
elucidating evolutionary relationships Contrary to the work of Eileen Crist, who
argues that ethologist concern to produce mechanomorphic descriptions of behaviour
led them to see their animals as machines, I show that the fieldnotes regularly
included anthropomorphic description, which only later was excised in writing up
scientific publications where mechanistic description and a programmatic rejection
of anthropomorphism were the norm.
The backgrounds of many of Tinbergen's contemporaries and students was
considered in the first half of chapter two, and showed that almost all members of the
school had a background in amateur natural history and strong personal and aesthetic
affection for the animals they studied. The early fieldwork of the Tinbergians is
examined in more detail in the second half of the chapter. This considers the work of
two of Tinbergen's students: Robert Hinde and Martin Moynihan. Hinde's work is
shown to be transitional between earlier approaches to animal behaviour and the
more systematic methodology promoted by Tinbergen, while Moynihan's work
instantiated a particularly pure expression of early Tinbergian ideals.
Tinbergen's Oxford laboratory is the subject of chapter three, looking in particular at
how 'natural' behaviour was studied in an artificial environment. I look at the work of
Desmond Morris, Margaret Bastock (later Manning) and J. Michael (Mike) Cullen.
Morris's work reproduced field techniques of intensive close observation of
behaviour in the laboratory. Bastock's work, largely overlooked by previous
historians, showed interest in behaviour genetics. Cullen's work illustrates the
difficulties of studying natural behaviour under laboratory conditions, and
emphasises the value that Tinbergians placed on direct observation over other
possible recording techniques. I then proceed to a more general consideration of the
relationship between laboratory and field in the early years of the Tinbergen school.
Change over time is the theme of chapter four. Many of the early methodological
commitments of the school were subsequently abandoned as the observation-led
approach to behaviour gave way to a more explicitly theory-led and interventionist
concern with causation, development, evolution and function. This was apparent both
in the field and in the laboratory, and even included the occasional adoption of
vivisection – a method dramatically at odds with the ethos of the early Tinbergen
The final chapter investigates how Tinbergen and others of his school communicated
their work to amateur audiences, and shows that in some instances the
anthropomorphic observations excluded for their scientific writings reappear in these
more popular communications. I then link this to the Tinbergen school's longstanding
interest in human behaviour.
The thesis is supplemented by a conclusion, and two appendices one listing the
students studied in the thesis, and the other listing as many of Tinbergen's students as
I can identify with surety.|
|Keywords: ||Tinbergen, Niko, 1907-|
|Appears in Collections:||Science Technology and Innovation Studies thesis and dissertation collection|
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