Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

From animals to humans: Niko Tinbergen’s venture into autism research and implications for present-day understandings of ethology

Tseng, Danielle Y. (2024) From animals to humans: Niko Tinbergen’s venture into autism research and implications for present-day understandings of ethology. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (400kB) | Preview


Nikolaas Tinbergen was a Dutch-born, Nobel Prize-winning animal researcher considered one of the founders of modern ethology. Best known for his “Four Questions”, an extant framework for analyzing animal behavior, Tinbergen made a drastic shift to childhood autism research in the last decade of his life. The guiding question for my research was thus: what motivated Tinbergen so late in his career to bridge the purported animal-human divide? In neither of the book-length biographies recounting the scientist’s career and life is there a clear explanation of what led to his pivot from animals to humans. The autism research cannot be dismissed so offhandedly despite the extensive backlash it received; nor did Tinbergen want it to be taken lightly, if the dedication of his Nobel Peace Prize speech to this work was any indication. Through my investigation of this question, I conducted archivally based primary source research, historical contextualization with secondary sources, and parallel assessment with cross-referenced figures. In my thesis, I argue historical events, coupled with personal turmoil, instilled in Tinbergen a deep-seated discontent with the state of his world. He channeled this discontent into attempting to cure childhood autism—a condition he considered a direct manifestation of a world in disarray. I anticipate my project will help elucidate how to contextualize the work of scientists and bridge an interdisciplinary gap between science and history. I believe scientific disciplines more informed by the humanities would make for more empathetic and cognizant scientists and professionals.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tseng, Danielle Y.dat138@pitt.edudat1380009-0002-4076-9394
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKohl, Kevin
Committee CoChairLovett, Laura
Committee MemberStephenson, Jessica
Committee MemberVicedo,
Date: 23 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 April 2024
Approval Date: 23 April 2024
Submission Date: 19 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 57
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Biological Sciences
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: biology, ecology, history, cultural evolution, human predicament
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2024 15:35
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2024 15:35


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item