Konrad Lorenz and models of animal behavior

13-07-2020
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Scientist Konrad Zacharias Lorenz was an Austrian zoologist. His exceptional work on animal behavior won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973.

Konrad Lorenz, the Austrian zoologist, is considered to be the founder of modern ethology . This scientist was a pioneer in the study of animal behavior by comparative zoological methods.

His ideas helped to understand how patterns of behavior can relate to the evolutionary past . He was also known for his work on the roots of aggression in humans.

He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with animal behaviorists Karl von Frisch and Nikolaas Tinbergen.

Family environment and education

Konrad Zacharias Lorenz was born on November 7, 1903 . He grew up in Vienna. But also in the family’s summer residence in Altenberg , a village on the Danube, in Austria.

He was the youngest son of Adolf Lorenz, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, and Emma Lecher Lorenz, a doctor. From an early age, Konrad loved to keep and observe animals .

Lorenz graduated from one of the best secondary schools in Vienna. Her childhood friend Margaret Gebhardt was also interested in animals . Then in 1939 he married her and they had two daughters and a son.

The young Lorenz obtained his doctorate in medicine at the University of Vienna in 1928. He was appointed assistant professor at the Institute of Anatomy until 1935. He also began to study zoology , a field in which he obtained a doctorate in 1933 from the same university.

Konrad Lorenz died of kidney failure on February 27, 1989 in Altenberg, Germany.

Konrad Lorenz: career and achievements

From his observations between 1935 and 1938, Lorenz established the concept of the imprint . The imprint is the process by which a baby – in its first moments of life – follows an object, usually its biological mother.

He arrived at this concept by observing birds (geese and jackdaws) . In doing so, he discovered that shortly after hatching, the chicks are genetically inclined to identify the sound and appearance of their mother and thus to form a permanent link with her.

In 1940, he was appointed professor of psychology at the University of Königsberg. The Second World War (1939-1945) quickly interrupted his university career.

Un oiseau venant de naître

War experiences

During the war, Konrad Lorenz served as a doctor in the German army. He was captured in 1942 and was a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union for six years .

He returned to Austria in 1948 and headed the Altenberg Institute of Comparative Ethology from 1949 to 1951. In 1950, he created a department of comparative ethology at the Max Planck Institute in Buldern, Westphalia. He became co-director of the Institute in 1954.

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