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Karl von Frisch

Karl von Frisch

The Austrian zoologist Karl von Frisch (1886-1982) is noted for his studies of insect behavior and sensory physiology. His most famous discovery was that honeybees communicate by waggle dancing.

Karl von Frisch was born on November 20, 1886, in Vienna, the son of a university professor. He displayed an early interest in animals, which his family encouraged. His uncle, Sigmund Exner, the leading authority on insect vision at the time, channeled Frisch's earliest professional endeavors into a study of vision in honeybees.

Frisch studied under Richard von Hertwig at the University of Munich and received his doctorate in zoology in 1910. Early in his career he began to make important contributions to the analysis of animal behavior. It is said that every successful scientist has a small number of personal tools with which he levers discoveries out of nature, and Frisch had two in which he attained great mastery. The first was the repeated exploitation of the passage of honeybees from nest to flowers and back again, a complex sequence of behavioral events that is nonetheless easy to manipulate and monitor. The second was the method of training, developed by Ivan Pavlov, by which Frisch associated the stimuli to be studied with a subsequent reward of food. Animals trained in this fashion respond sharply to odd stimuli that they otherwise ignore, thus revealing ultimately their sensory capacities.

Using the training method, Frisch confounded C. von Hess in their famous debate on color vision in insects. He demonstrated the ability of fish to hear and of insects to perceive polarized light. Over the years Frisch sketched out in great detail the sensory physiology of the worker honeybee. In 1945 he made the astounding discovery that honeybee workers communicate symbolically about the location of food sources such as fields of flowers. They accomplish this deep within the hive by means of the "waggle dance," in which the entire body is vibrated as the bee runs through figure-eight patterns on the vertical surface of the comb. The middle part of the figure, the "straight run," provides the information; its angle with reference to the vertical indicates the angle the follower bees must take with reference to the sun when they leave the hive; and its duration indicates the length of the trip. This mode of communication is the most complex ever discovered in invertebrate animals.

Frisch was director of the zoological institute in Munich from 1925 until World War II and again from 1950 to 1958. He received numerous honors, including the Balzan Foundation Award in 1963 and foreign memberships in the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London. He, along with Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergern, shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. In an article in Science regarding the Nobel Prize, Frisch was praised for teaching the world that human nature is "subject to the principles that mold the biology, adaptability and the survival of other organisms."

About his own work, Frisch philosophically wrote in A Biologist Remembers, "The layman may wonder why a biologist is content to devote 50 years of his life to the study of bees and minnows without ever branching out into research on, say, elephants, or at any rate the lice of elephants or the fleas of moles. The answer to any such question must be that every single species of the animal kingdom challenges us with all, or nearly all, the mysteries of life." Frisch died June 12, 1982, in Munich, Germany.

Further Reading

The best book on Frisch's life is his autobiography, A Biologist Remembers (1962; trans. 1964). He also reviewed his researches on honeybees in two beautifully written works available in English translation: the definitive treatise, The DanceLanguage and Orientation of Bees (1967), and a shorter introductory work, Bees: Their Vision, Chemical Senses and Language (1950). □

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Frisch, Karl von

Karl von Frisch (frĬsh), 1887–1982, Austrian zoologist, b. Vienna, Austria. He studied zoology with Richard von Hertwig, whom he later succeeded as professor of zoology at Munich Univ. For his pioneering work in comparative behavioral physiology, particularly his studies of the complex communication between insects, von Frisch was awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. In his early work he showed that fish and honeybees can see colors, fish can hear, and bees can distinguish dozens of closely related floral scents. In 1923 he described as a simple language the round and waggle dances of honeybees. He found that round dances mean that food is nearby and waggle dances mean that there is food at a distance. The straight component of the waggle dance points the way to the food, and the duration of the dance indicates the distance. In some cases bees orient themselves by the direction of the sun or, if the sky is overcast, by the polarization of light from patches of blue sky. An important implication of von Frisch's work is that behavioral continuity exists between animal communication and human language.

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"Frisch, Karl von." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Frisch, Karl von

Frisch, Karl von (1886–1982)An Austrian zoologist who was joint winner (with KonradLorenz and NikolaasTinbergen) of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their studies of animal behaviour. Von Frisch specialized in insect behaviour and in the 1940s showed that bees can navigate by the Sun and perform dances to communicate to other members of their hive the location of food sources (see dance language). He also discovered that fish have an acute sense of hearing.

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"Frisch, Karl von." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Frisch, Karl von." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/frisch-karl-von

Frisch, Karl von

Frisch, Karl von (1886–1982) Austrian zoologist. He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with K. Lorenz and N. Tinbergen for his pioneering work in ethology. He deciphered the ‘language’ of bees by studying their dance patterns in which one bee tells others in the hive the direction and distance of a food source. In his earlier work, he showed that fish and bees see colours, fish can hear and that bees can distinguish various flower scents.

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"Frisch, Karl von." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/frisch-karl-von

Frisch, Karl von

Frisch, Karl von (1886–1982) An Austrian zoologist who was joint winner (with Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen) of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their studies of animal behaviour. Von Frisch specialized in insect behaviour and in the 1940s showed that bees can navigate by the sun and perform dances to communicate to other members of their hive the location of food sources. He also discovered that fish have an acute sense of hearing.

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"Frisch, Karl von." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Frisch, Karl von." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/frisch-karl-von-0

Frisch, Karl von

Frisch, Karl von (1886–1982) Austrian zoologist, who became director of the Zoological Institute in Munich in 1925. Frisch is remembered for his discovery that bees perform a `dance' to indicate to their fellows the location of a source of food (see dance of the bees). For this work he was awarded a share in the 1973 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, jointly with Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen.

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"Frisch, Karl von." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Frisch, Karl von." A Dictionary of Biology. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/frisch-karl-von-1