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Karl von Frisch and Discovery of the Honeybee Language

at The Newberry -

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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 18 and older
Average Class Size: 14

What you'll learn in this literature class:

In 1973, the Austrian-born experimental physiologist, Karl von Frisch, received a share of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the honeybee dance language. Von Frisch argued that bees communicate the distance and direction of food sources via their dance-like movements. 

Language had long been considered the exclusive domain of humans, and the discovery of symbolic communication in insects was considered a sensation and made von Frisch one of the best-known scientists of the post-war period. Less well known today is that von Frisch performed much of this work during WWII with funding from the Nazi Ministry of Food and Agriculture - this after the German government had declared him one-quarter Jewish and threatened to oust him from his position in Munich. Then, as now, the bees were dying and food had become critically important to the German war effort. This talk - based on Munz’s recent book by the same title - explores the relationship between science and politics during WWII and how the bees transitioned over the course of the 20th century from model political animals to premier communicators at the hands of von Frisch.

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School: The Newberry

The Newberry

The Newberry is home to a world-class collection of books, manuscripts, maps, music, and other handmade and printed materials related to the history and culture of Western Europe and the Americas. The collections span many centuries and feature items such as illuminated medieval manuscripts, rare early...

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