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Title: Rethinking the history of ethology : French animal behaviour studies in the Third Republic (1870-1940)
Author: Thomas , Marion Constance
ISNI:       0000 0004 2695 0442
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2003
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Ethology (the comparative study of behaviour) was officially sanctioned when the zoologists Konrad Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1973. Historians of ethology then mostly embraced Lorenz's definition of the field and did not question the strategy he resorted to when he championed his ethology against other traditions in the study of animal behaviour. Among them, the French studies loomed large, and one main aim of this dissertation has been to make up for their neglect within the historiography of science. This thesis explores the kinds of intellectual, social, cultural and ideological resources French scholars drew upon in attempting to make sense of animal and human behaviour. It maps out the development of animal behaviour studies in relation to psychology and sociology, two disciplines that emerged in the late nineteenth century. First, I examine how zoologists and psychologists struggled for a monopoly over animal behaviour studies. I argue that Henri Pieron instrumentalised animal behaviour studies as a vehicle towards establishing psychology as a legitimate scientific discipline. Second, I explore the late nineteenth and early twentieth century French debate over sociobiology. I examine the argument between the Durkheimian school, who challenged the continuity between animal and human societies and the philosopher Alfred Espinas and many French naturalists, who took this continuity for granted. Finally, I explore how sociobiology re-emerged in the inter-war period, both against Durkheim and Espinas'sociology. Another major theme of this thesis is the different uses of animals (especially Insects and apes) within theoretical discussions in natural history and biology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The thesis situates animal behaviour studies within the evolutionary debate and the debate over the transformation of biology, which articulated the tensions between laboratory and field approaches. It also delineates the wider socio-cultural contexts within which insects and apes were employed. The social insects (ants, bees, wasps), in particular, provided scientists and social commentators with analogues to governing principles of the French Third Republic. Studies of maternal instinct mirrored different representations of female identity, and women's roles within society, challenged by late nineteenth century French feminism. Also, comparative studies on ape and child intelligence reflected larger debates about education. Histories of animal behaviour have tended to concentrate on major discoveries and institutional achievements, or on the cultural relevance of such studies. My aim in this thesis has been to bring those two types of history together for the specific case of French animal behaviour studies - to begin to explore how socio-cultural assumptions and material facts informed the French work as well as to examine how studies of animal behaviour were expected to fit into a professional scientific career, even in the absence of a unified discipline of ethology
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available