Günter Tembrock (1918-2011) was the founder of the first German “Research Center for Animal Psychology” in Berlin in 1948 and is considered the most important researcher in the field of behavioural biology in the GDR. Even though he worked on a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals of animal behaviour, his special interest was in mammals. He conducted his first behavioural studies on a female chimpanzee at the Berlin Zoo, which formed the basis for his book “Grundzüge der Schimpansen-Psychologie” (Fundamentals of Chimpanzee Psychology), published in 1949. Subsequently, the behaviour of red foxes, which were kept at the institute from 1948 to 1969, was the focus of his scientific activities. The behaviour of red foxes with special consideration of the vocalization was the subject of his habilitation thesis. The foxes kept at the institute were also the source of the first studies on acoustic communication.
In addition to numerous technical essays and books on behavioural science, he built up the largest animal voice archive in Europe in Berlin, which today comprises more than 100,000 recordings of hundreds of animal species. Günter Tembrock also coined the term “Bioakustik”, which he took from the English term “biological acoustics” in his first book on animal voices in 1959. He wrote the first summary of mammalian vocalization in the anthology "Acoustic Behaviour of Animals", published by Busnel in 1963, and the contribution to “Land Mammals” in Sebeok's (1968) “Animal communication”.
He became popular in the GDR in the 1980s, among other things with his television program "Rendezvous with Animals". Starting from the early 1980s, Günter Tembrock turned increasingly to questions of the biological basis of human behaviour. In close cooperation with physicians, psychologists and philosophers, he looked at human beings in their bio-psycho-social units and, together with Karl-Friedrich Wessel, Hans-Dieter Schmidt and Günter Dörner, founded a new discipline, human ontogenetics. In the field of bioacoustics he found parallels between the singing voice and the phonetic characteristics of certain mammalian sounds. The last book he wrote is on the subject of “Anxiety. Natural History of a Psychobiological Phenomenon” (Orig. “Angst. Naturgeschichte eines psychobiologischen Phänomens”).
Photo: (c) Heike Zappe