Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 419–444 | Cite as

The Development of Sociobiology in Relation to Animal Behavior Studies, 1946–1975

  • Clement LevalloisEmail author


This paper aims at bridging a gap between the history of American animal behavior studies and the history of sociobiology. In the post-war period, ecology, comparative psychology and ethology were all investigating animal societies, using different approaches ranging from fieldwork to laboratory studies. We argue that this disunity in “practices of place” (Kohler, Robert E. Landscapes & Labscapes: Exploring the Lab-Field Border in Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) explains the attempts of dialogue between those three fields and early calls for unity through “sociobiology” by J. Paul Scott. In turn, tensions between the naturalist tradition and the rising reductionist approach in biology provide an original background for a history of Edward Wilson’s own version of sociobiology, much beyond the William Hamilton’s papers (Journal of Theoretical Biology 7: 1–16, 17–52, 1964) usually considered as its key antecedent. Naturalists were in a defensive position in the geography of the fields studying animal behavior, and in reaction were a driving force behind the various projects of synthesis called “sociobiology”.


Social behavior Animal behavior studies Sociobiology Edward O. Wilson Ethology Comparative psychology Ecology J. P. Scott Stuart A. Altmann 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emlyon Business SchoolEcullyFrance

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