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William Homan Thorpe FRS (April 1, 1902 – April 7, 1986) was Professor of Animal Ethology at the University of Cambridge, and a significant British zoologist, ethologist and ornithologist.

Together with Nikolaas Tinbergen, Patrick Bateson and Robert Hinde, Thorpe contributed to the growth and acceptance of behavioural biology in Great Britain.

In the 1940s, he pioneered the use of sound spectrography for the detailed analysis of bird song. At the time, there was only a single apparatus in the UK.

He was elected to the Royal Society in 1951 and speaker at the Gifford lectures from 1969 to 1971.

He was president of the British Ornithologists' Union from 1955 to 1960.


  • Learning and Instinct in Animals (1956) Methuen, London ISBN 0-416-57920-5
  • Biology,psychology,and belief (Arthur Stanley Eddington memorial lectures) (1960)
  • Bird-Song. The biology of vocal communication and expression in birds, University Press, Cambridge 1961, (Cambridge monographs in experimental biology; Vol. 12)
  • Biology and Nature of Man (Riddell Memorial Lecture) (1962)
  • Duetting and antiphonal song in birds. Its extent and significance, Brill, Leiden 1972, ISBN 90-04-03432-3 (Behaviour / Supplements; Vol. 18)
  • Quakers and Humanists (Swarthmore Lectures) (1968)
  • Animal Nature and Human Nature (1975)
  • Science, Man and Morals. Based upon the Freemantle lectures, delivered in Balliol College, Oxford, Trinity term 1963, Greenwood, Westport, Conn. 1976, ISBN 0-8371-8143-7
  • Purpose in a World of Chance: A Biologist's View (1978)
  • The origins and rise of ethology. The science of the natural behaviour of animals, Heinemann, London 1979, ISBN 0-435-62441-5

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