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October 25, 2005: Richard W. Burkhardt

Richard W. Burkhardt

Burkhardt specializes in the history of evolutionary theory and ethology, which is the study of animal behavior by means of comparative zoological methods. In his talk, he will examine the scientific, social and political aspects in the development of ethology as a modern science.

His current research focuses on the scientific and social dimensions of animal behavior studies from 1800 to the present and the social and cultural history of zoos. In his 2005 book, Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology, he examines the work of these two zoologists who are credited along with fellow zoologist Karl von Frisch with revitalizing the science of ethology. It has been only in the last century that ethology has emerged as a major field of the life sciences. Before then, most of what was known in the life sciences was based on the study of dead specimens. Their emphasis was on field observations of animals under natural conditions. Lorenz and Tinbergen shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with von Frisch.

Burkhardt received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University. He is professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he taught for three decades. He has served as chairman of the history department and director of the program in science, technology and society. He has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and past president of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology.

Public Affairs article: Historian Richard Burkhardt to speak on the modern development of ethology for the Assembly Series