Nobel Prize Recipient, Zoologist. He received world-wide acclaim as an Austrian zoologist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with animal behaviorists Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen. The three scholars were given this prestigious award “for their discoveries on the organization and triggering of individual and social behavioral patterns.” He studied the communication among bees, which added significantly to the knowledge of chemical and visual sensors of insects. He was the son of a urologist who was a university professor. An uncle, Sigmund Exner, was a leading authority on insect vision and encouraged him to study animals. In 1905 he enrolled in the University of Vienna to study medicine for one year; his uncle was a professor there. After transferring, he earned a Ph.D from the University of Munich in Germany in 1910. The same year, his research proved that a fish had the ability to understand color and brightness, and although not accepted by all leading authorities, that a fish's ability was superior than a human's ability. At the outbreak of World War I, he was called for military service in the German army but his poor eyesight deferred him. He volunteered for a Red Cross Hospital working in a laboratory. At the hospital he met a nurse, Margaethe Mohr, whom he married in 1917, and the couple had one son and three daughters.In 1919, his research on bees proved that they can distinguish between taste and smell. He determined that the bee does a circling dance when food is within 250 feet of the hive and do a wagging dance when it is further. In 1921 he was appointed director of the Zoological Institution at the University of Rostock in Germany and two years later, accepted a similar position at the University of Breslau in Germany. In 1925 he returned to the University of Munich establishing a Zoological Institution. This institution was destroyed in World War II. At this point, he joined the staff at the University of Graz in Austria, but returned to Munich in 1950 staying there until his retirement in 1958. In 1949 he proved that bees use the sun as a compasss. In 1962 he wrote his autobiography, “A Biologist Remembers,” which was translated to English in 1964. He wrote a total of seven books including “The Dane Language and Orientation of Bees” in 1967 and an earlier work in 1950, “Bees: This Vision, Chemical Senses and Language.” At least three of his books have been translated to English and are online for students to read. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was the recipient of numerous awards including the Balzan Foundation Award in 1963 and foreign memberships in the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Margarete Mohr von Frisch