The Tinbergen legacy in photography and film

  • Lary Shaffer


Niko Tinbergen always felt that something was wrong because he was able to spend much of his professional life doing things that he enjoyed enormously: watching and photographing animals, and trying to work out the interaction between behaviour and evolution. He wrote an elegant justification of his activities near the end of ‘Curious naturalists’ (Tinbergen, 1958):

‘It seems to me that no man need be ashamed of being curious about nature. It could even be argued that this is what he got his brains for and that no greater insult to nature and to oneself is possible than to be indifferent to nature. There are occupations of decidedly lesser standing.’

In return for the excitement and fun he was having, Niko felt that he had an obligation to the public who, ultimately, paid for his work. Throughout his professional life, he placed a very high value on communicating the results of his studies to the general public. He said ‘I try to impress on my students that half their work is communication. Science is a social effort, and scientists must adjust to the public. If people don’t want to read your work, your whole effort, and all the money that went into it has been lost.’ (Hall, 1974).


Motion Picture Telephoto Lens Plate Holder Snow Bunting Field Camp 
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  1. Ennion, E. and Tinbergen, N. (1967) Tracks, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  2. Hall, E. (1974) A conversation with Nobel Prize winner Niko Tinbergen. Psychology Today, 7, 65–80.Google Scholar
  3. Tinbergen, N. (1953). The herring gull’s world, Collins, London.Google Scholar
  4. Tinbergen, N. (1958) Curious naturalists, Country Life, London.Google Scholar
  5. Tinbergen, N., Falkus, H. and Ennion, E. (1970) Signals for survival, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lary Shaffer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySUNYPlattsburghUSA

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