Chapter 8: "The Experimental Animal from the Naturalist's Point of View": Behavior and Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1954

By Milam, Erika Lorraine | Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Chapter 8: "The Experimental Animal from the Naturalist's Point of View": Behavior and Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1954


Milam, Erika Lorraine, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society


The study of animal behavior in the United States expanded considerably between the two World Wars, in terms of the number of biologists interested in the subject and the scope of dieir research (Burkhardt, 2005; Dewsbury, 1989b; Mitman & Burkhardt, 1991). These biologists came from both naturalist and experimentalist traditions. For example, Warder Clyde Allee, at the University of Chicago, incorporated animal behavior into an ecological context. Allee stressed the importance of an organism's interactions with the community in which it lived and the surrounding environmental conditions in producing its behavior (Mitman, 1992). Taking a very different approach, William C. Young, one of the founders of behavioral endocrinology, is remembered for his research on the role of sex hormones in producing mating behavior. These approaches within behavioral research of the interwar period built on strong disciplinary traditions in the study of behavior established at the turn of the twentieth century (Dewsbury, 1989b). By the mid-1930s, comparative psychology had also begun to attract more students. Comparative psychologists were interested primarily in the ability of animals to learn, although some also explored the role of behavior in the natural lives of organisms and the evolution of behavior more generally (Dewsbury, 1989b). Despite such methodological diversity, these communities of biologists were united in their belief that the study of animal behavior should be professionalized and rid of its amateurish, anthropomorphic roots.

Each group brought valuable contributions to the table: experimentalists found that the controlled environment of the laboratory provided an ideal location for modifying and observing behavior in developing organisms, while naturalists used observation and modification of an organism's natural habitat to establish the normal behavior characteristic of the species. Without the behavioral data gathered in the natural environment of the organism, it was impossible to know whether behaviors observed in laboratory spaces were real or simply an artifact of the artificial conditions of the laboratory. During this period, as historian of science William Coleman suggested in 1974, "the activities of the experimentalist and of the naturalist are not really as sharply defined as they might seem to some of us [now]."1

Gladwyn Kingsley Noble, curator of herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) from 1923-1940, was characteristic of biologists studying behavior in the 1930s. He embothed the fluid boundary between experimental and naturalist traditions and sought to put the study of behavior on a more professional footing. Noble founded the Laboratory of Experimental Biology (LEB) at the AMNH in 1928. In his laboratory spaces, he sought to map the evolution of social behavior "from fish to man," and to uncover the hormonal changes regulating behavioral differences between each taxonomic group he stuthed (Gregory, 1941a; Mitman 8c Burkhardt, 1991). To do so, Noble observed and gathered his research specimens in the field and used this data to construct naturalistic enclosures for his experimental subjects in the LEB. In 1939, Noble published an article entitled, "The experimental animal from the naturalist's point of view," in which he extolled the virtues of laboratory research for answering questions of concern to naturalists like himself (Noble, 1939).

Yet after Noble's untimely deadi in 1940, the LEB's experimental research program began to shift direction as subsequent curators strove to fit their experimental research on behavior into the overall mission of the AMNH. Frank Ambrose Beach, curator of the LEB from 1940-1946, continued Noble's comparative approach to behavioral research and changed the name of the research group to the "Laboratory of Animal Behavior." This change in name codified what had become the sole research agenda of the LEB under Noble's tenure. When Beach left the department, Lester Aronson took his place as curator of the Laboratory of Animal Behavior. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chapter 8: "The Experimental Animal from the Naturalist's Point of View": Behavior and Evolution at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1954
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.