From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1997:
Twenty-four years ago, toward the end of an active scientific career that spanned
half a century, the late Konrad Lorenz was honored with the Nobel Prize for Physiology
and Medicine, in recognition of his development of the science of ethology.
Ethology is studying how animals work, including humans, by studying behavior.
Lorenz formed important theories about human marriage and parenting, later affirmed
by direct observation of human subjects, through studying greylag geese. Ethology encompasses
social science, including sociology and psychology, and physical science, from
anatomy to zoology, but most essentially, ethology applies ecological principles to the
study of individual species. Unlke the disciplines of science developed by taking things
apart, which attempt to segregate, categorize, and define, ethology recognizes that living
beings act and evolve in continuous response to ever-changing conditions. Instead of asking,
“What is this part?”, the ethologist asks “How does this action relate to the whole?”
That to understand animals we should study them in their totality doesn’t sound as
if it should have taken a Nobel Prize winner to realize, yet before Lorenz, most investigations
of natural history were, as he put it, exercises in necrology, the study of death.