Karl von Frisch Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Karl von Frisch

Birthday :

November 20, 1886

Died On :

June 12, 1982

Birth Place :

Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Zodiac Sign :


Karl von Frisch was an award-winning and prominent Austrian ethnologist. Born on November 20, 1886, his main research was on the sensory perceptions of the honey bee and was among the first to translate the meaning of the waggle dance. Karl von Frisch published the book Aus dem Leben der Bienen (The Dancing Bee), which contained his theories but all his claims were disputed by other scientist but were later proved accurate. The decorated ethnologist alongside Konrad Lorenz won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973.

Early Life And Education

Karl von Frisch was born on November 20, 1886, in Vienna, Austria-Hungary to Anton von Frisch and Marie Exner. His father was a surgeon and urologist. Karl was the last child of four by his parents with his other siblings becoming university professors. Karl von Frisch received his education in Vienna under Hans Leo Przibram and also in Munich under Richard von Hertwig. Karl von Frisch initially studied medicine changed to natural sciences. In 1910, Karl von Frisch received his doctorate from the University of Munich.



After his doctorate degree, Karl von Frisch was employed at the University of Munich as an assistant in the zoology department. Karl von Frisch progressed to become zoology and comparative anatomy lecturer in 1912 and gained a professorship in 1919. Karl von Frisch left the University of Munich to Rostock University as a professor of zoology and director of an institute in 1921. Karl von Frisch served as a chair at Breslau University in 1923 and later returned to the University of Munich as head of the Institute of Zoology in 1925.

During the World War II, the Institute of Zoology was destroyed, hence moved to the University of Graz in 1946 where Karl von Frisch remained until 1950. Karl von Frisch then returned to the Munich Institute of zoology after its reopening where Karl von Frisch worked until his retirement in 1958.



Karl von Frisch's research was basically on aspects of animal behavior, especially with bees. Karl von Frisch studies led him to discover that bees are flowers constant and able to differentiate various blossoming plants by their scent. Karl von Frisch discovered that bees have a stronger sensitivity to sweet taste than humans do. In 1941, Karl von Frisch used classical conditioning, to prove bees’ optical perception and that honeybees have color vision. Karl von Frisch did this by training sample of bees to feed on a dish of sugar on a colored card.

Karl von Frisch found out that, bees color perception is almost like that of humans, but cannot distinguish the color red from black. They are however able to distinguish colors like violet, yellow, white and blue. Karl von Frisch found out that bees have a great sense of orientation and are able to recognize a direction through three ways including, the sun, polarisation pattern of the blue sky and the earth’s magnetic fields.


Dances As Language

Karl von Frisch discovered that bees are able to communicate through their dance. They have two main types of dance, the round dance and waggle dance. With the round dance, bees communicate that there is a feeding place within 50 to 100 meters. With their close contact, they are able to determine the type of food. Through the waggle dance, bees are able to communicate about food that is a distant source.


Personal Life

Karl von Frisch von Frisch was married to Margarete nee Mohr. The couple had a son Otto von Frisch. Margarete died in 1964, and Karl also died on June 12, 1982.


Awards And Honours

Karl von Frisch von Frisch received several awards and honours for his research works including,the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Balzan Prize for Biology, Austrian Medal for Science and Arts, Pour le Merite, Kalinga Prize for Popularization of Science and Bavarian Order of Merit among several others.

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