Record

Reference numberMS/924
LevelSubFonds
TitleCorrespondence and photographic material of Nikolaas Tinbergen and the Oxford Animal Behaviour Research Group, compiled by Lawrence Shaffer
Date1967-1990
DescriptionCorrespondence with associated papers, and photographic material accumulated by Lawrence 'Lary' Shaffer during his time with Nikolaas 'Niko' Tinbergen and the Oxford Animal Behaviour Research Group 1967-1976. Also further correspondence from Niko Tinbergen dating from after Shaffer returned to the United States of America, in 1976, continuing until Tinbergen's death in 1988. Includes correspondence with Tinbergen's wife Lies, some of which postdates Niko Tinbergen's death.

The bulk of the papers are letters dated 1967-1988 from Niko Tinbergen to Shaffer, some of which are also addressed to Shaffer's wife Beth. These are interspersed with some other correspondence, related papers, and occassional visual aids.

The photographic material comprises: seven black and white informal portrait prints of Tinbergen, 145 coloured photographic slides and 30 strips of black and white negatives of Tinbergen and the Oxford Animal Behaviour Research Group, 1968-1976, with indexes and comments by Shaffer.
Extent1 box MS large
FormatPhotograph
Manuscript
Typescript
Physical descriptionLoose papers, photographic slides, negatives and prints
ArrangementCollection comprises two series: photographic material and correspondence & papers. Shaffer sorted the papers according to year prior to depositing them at the Royal Society. Much of the material is undated but becuase of his familiarity with the material Shaffer has been able to determine the year such papers were likely written from their content, for this reason his arrangement has been maintained. Within each year the papers have been arranged chronologically, those without a specific day and month identified have been placed at the end of each annual file.
Access statusOpen
Administrative historyNikolaas 'Niko' Tinbergen, Dutch biologist, ornithologist and animal behaviourist, was born 15 April 1907 and died 21 December 1988. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern ethology; the study of animal behaviour. In 1973 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz for their discoveries concerning organisation and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns in animals. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1962.

Tinbergen moved from Leiden to England in 1949 and taught at the University of Oxford where he was a fellow first at Merton College and later at Wolfson College. In 1951, he published 'The Study of Instinct', an influential book on animal behaviour. In the 1960s and 70s, he collaborated with filmmaker Hugh Falkus on a series of wildlife films, including The Riddle of the Rook (1972) and Signals for Survival (1969). He was appointed Professor of Animal Behaviour in 1966 and retired in 1974.

At Oxford Tinbergen built up 'The Animal Behaviour Research Group' which had a profound influence on the development of ethology round the world. In particular, his research focused on the adaptedness of behaviour; work on the herring gull he had initiated in the Netherlands developed into comparative studies of many gull species. The Group had a field base at Walney Island. Several of his graduate students went on to become prominent biologists including Richard Dawkins FRS, Marian Dawkins, Desmond Morris, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Bill Hamilton, John Krebs FRS, Mike Cullen and Tony Sinclair.

Tinbergen also applied his observational methods to the problems of autistic children. After retiring from Oxford University in 1974, he and his wife, Lies Tinbergen, collaborated on a study of childhood autism publishing 'Autistic Children - new hope for a cure' in 1983.

Lawrence 'Lary' Shaffer was one of Tinbergen's students and also worked as Tinbergen's cameraman when he was involved in making teaching films and television documentaries. His time studying and working with Tinbergen and the Oxford Animal Behaviour Research Group dates from autumn 1968 when he became a research graduate in the department of zoology, University of Oxford until Schaffer's return to the United States of America in 1976. After leaving the UK Shaffer maintained a close relationship with Tinbergen and in his own words considered Tinbergen to be like a father to him. They continued to correspond until Tinbergen's death in 1988.
Related materialThe Bodleian Library, University of Oxford also hold Tinbergen archive material: 'Papers and correspondence of Nikolaas Tinbergen, 1907-1988'. See catalogue https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb161-n.tinbergenpapers
Fellows associated with this archive
CodeNameDates
NA1869Tinbergen; Nikolaas (1907 - 1988)1907 - 1988
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