Nikolaas "Niko" Tinbergen FRS (//; Dutch: ; 15 April 1907 – 21 December 1988) was a Dutch biologist and ornithologist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns in animals. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern ethology, the study of animal behavior.
In 1951, he published The Study of Instinct, an influential book on animal behaviour. In the 1960s, he collaborated with filmmaker Hugh Falkus on a series of wildlife films, including The Riddle of the Rook (1972) and Signals for Survival (1969), which won the Italia prize in that year and the American blue ribbon in 1971.
Born in The Hague, Netherlands, he was one of five children of Dirk Cornelis Tinbergen and his wife Jeannette van Eek. His brother, Jan Tinbergen, won the first Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 1969. They are the only siblings to each win a Nobel Prize. Another brother, Luuk Tinbergen was also a noted biologist.
Tinbergen's interest in nature manifested itself when he was young. He studied biology at Leiden University and was a prisoner of war during World War II. Tinbergen's experience as a prisoner of the Nazis led to some friction with longtime intellectual collaborator Konrad Lorenz, and it was several years before the two reconciled.
After the war, Tinbergen moved to England, where he taught at the University of Oxford and was a fellow first at Merton College, Oxford and later at Wolfson College, Oxford. Several of his graduate students went on to become prominent biologists including Richard Dawkins, Marian Dawkins, Desmond Morris, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, and Tony Sinclair.
In 1951 Tinbergen's The Study of Instinct was published. Behavioural ecologists and evolutionary biologists still recognise the contribution this book offered the field of behavioural science studies. The Study of Instinct summarises Tinbergen's ideas on innate behavioural reactions in animals and the adaptiveness and evolutionary aspects of these behaviours. By behaviour, he means the total movements made by the intact animal; innate behaviour is that which is not changed by the learning process. The major question of the book is the role of internal and external stimuli in controlling the expression of behaviour.
In particular, he was interested in explaining 'spontaneous' behaviours: those that occurred in their complete form the first time they were performed and that seemed resistant to the effects of learning. He explains how behaviour can be considered a combination of these spontaneous behaviour patterns and as set series of reactions to particular stimuli. Behaviour is a reaction in that to a certain extent it is reliant on external stimuli, however it is also spontaneous since it is also dependent upon internal causal factors.