Erich von Holst

Erich von Holst ( Erich Walther von Holst, born November 28, 1908 in Riga, † 26 May 1962 Herrsching am Ammersee ) was a German biologist, behavioral biologist and Neuroethologe.


Erich von Holst is the descendant of a family of Pastor Graves at Malchin whose roots are detectable until the 16th century. He is the son of psychiatrist Dr. Walther von Holst ( * 1872) and his wife Dora, born Dehio (* 1882). To the family of Holst is one of the historian Hermann Eduard von Holst ( 1841-1904 ). In his first marriage Erich von Holst, was married since 1936 ∞ with Hildegard Schwaller (* 1906), his second wife, since 1951 ∞ with Eveline Grisebach ( * 1922 ), the daughter of the art historian August Grisebach. His son Dietrich von Holst ( b. 1937 Danzig), Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Animal Physiology, University of Bayreuth, was also a significant biologist who conducted research in particular on the socially induced stress in mammals.


Born in Riga, Erich von Holst spent his school years in Danzig. He studied at the Christian -Albrechts -University of Kiel, the University of Vienna and the Humboldt -Universität zu Berlin. Under Richard Hesse received his doctorate from Holst in 1932 on the subject of studies on the function of the central nervous system in the earthworm Dr. phil. After receiving his doctorate went from Holst 1933 as a fellow for human physiologist Albrecht Bethe, head of the Institute of animalistic physiology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, where he primarily continued to develop his experimental methodology and refined. 1934-1936 he worked as a research assistant at the Zoological Station of Naples in the field of kinetics and effect of forces and their relative coordination in relation to the flight of birds and the Statolithenfunktion.

Erich von Holst joined in 1937 as an assistant at the Zoological Institute of the University of Berlin. In Berlin he met on February 12, 1937 for the first time Konrad Lorenz and convinced that following its presentation by the inaccuracy of the then widely accepted reflex chain theory - for Lorenz and the history of behavioral science is an important milestone. Von Holst completed his habilitation in 1938 with the design of a system for locomotor training period in fish as senior assistant at the Zoological Institute of the Georg -August- University of Göttingen and in 1946 Professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Institute of the Ruprecht -Karls- University of Heidelberg. In 1949, von Holst co-founder of the later Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology (later and after transport renamed to "Max - Planck - Institute for Cell Biology ," closed in 2003 ) in Wilhelmshaven, where he headed a department that sensory physiology and which behavior of the fish was dedicated. In this role, he also ran from the autumn of 1950, the establishment of a Research Centre for Comparative Ethology as an offshoot of the Institute in Wilhelmshaven moated castle Buldern / Westphalia, whose line 1951 Konrad Lorenz took over. On April 1, 1954, from Holst's department and the Research Centre in Buldern merged into its own Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology for which were built from 1955 Institute building at Eßsee near Starnberg in Bavaria. The new location was called Seewiesen, director of the new Institute was Erich von Holst with Konrad Lorenz as his deputy.

In addition, Erich von Holst was a passionate musician. Largely self-taught, he began quite late, at age 17, to acquire the game on the viola and perfect. He loves making music in a quartet or as a soloist. He died at the age of 53 years to an existing already since childhood heart disease.


Physiological behavior research

Erich von Holst was a technically very gifted experimenter. Looking for solutions to problems he developed sophisticated experimental designs and models. Unsurpassed were driven by his rubber power models of birds and flying dinosaurs. The extensive behavioral and physiological findings, was that of Holst's one of the co-founder of Neuroethology, Hassenstein characterized in eight points:

Contributions to Music and Instrument tuition

Systematically analyzed by Holst the influence of various components on the sound self-made, mature concert violins and violas. To solve the so-called " viola problem " - comfortable to be held violas are too small for the required mood - he developed the biological principle of allometry following, an asymmetric Viola, who was surprisingly tonally indistinguishable from symmetrical instruments (see Viola # Curiosities ). His book violin customer for lovers he could not accomplish.


  • Biological and aerodynamic problems of flight animal in: The Natural Sciences in 1941, 29th year, No. 24/25, pp. 348-362.
  • Studies on the flight Biophysics, I. Measurements for aerodynamics small oscillating wings in: Biol Zentralblatt Volume 63, Issue 7/ 8, July / August 1943, pp. 289-326.
  • The Reafferenzprinzip in: The Natural Sciences in 1950, 37
  • For the behavioral physiology of animals and human Collected Essays in two volumes; Piper Paperback Munich 1969 ( I) and 1970 ( II), ISBN 3-492-01784-3