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In this three-volume biography, we revisit the life and accomplishments of the revolutionary scientist, Donald R. Griffin. He encountered a lifetime of initial hostile resistance to his ideas and studies; now they are largely accepted. He and a colleague discovered the phenomenon of echolocation used by bats to navigate and capture insects, proposed that birds navigate guided by such cues as the sun and stars, and suggested that animals are likely aware, thinking and feeling beings. Forty interviews with his colleagues and friends help us understand the young emerging scientist and the mature researcher. We learn about his and others’ research up to the present times. We gain insights into his thinking and the rigors and delights of fieldwork. Efforts to promote animal well-being intrinsically depend upon the insights from his groundbreaking ideas.

The first volume describes the young Griffin as a child enthusiastically exploring nature near his Cape Cod home; keeping “scientific “journals of his animal observations; and as a teenager enticing others to join him in banding thousands of birds for his migration studies. He creates a very local scientific society with its own “professional" publication about nature in Cape Cod.. As a teenager, he has his first publication in a bona fide professional scientific journal. The reserved New England culture and tales of his impressive ancestors all influence the young Griffin.

As Harvard undergraduates, he and his friend, Robert Galambos, make the stupendous discovery that bats emit ultrasonic sounds and start their quest to discover why? Later, war-related studies at Harvard allow Griffin to learn about radar and instrumentation that become essential to his future echolocation research.

His first faculty position at Cornell and then at Harvard provide improved finances to support his wife and growing family and to continue his work on avian navigation and bat sonar. To track the birds, he learns to fly. To his astonishment, he discovers that bats use echolocation to find and capture tiny insects, not just to navigate. However, there are few believers in these discoveries. Following the path of von Humboldt in Venezuela, he discovers birds that echolocate. He becomes embroiled in controversy: not only about bats’ echolocation abilities, but also, for lack of definitive evidence, his resistance to accepting animals’ magnetic sensing. But the field of echolocation blossoms. His many musings and discoveries find further verification in modern research.


Global-No Country - 1

Publication Date



WellBeing International


Chevy Chase


animals, bird banding, bats, ultrasound, echolocation, military research, bat bomb, Cornell, Harvard, magnetoreception, New England, Cape Cod, nature


Animal Studies | Behavioral Neurobiology | Cognitive Neuroscience | Cognitive Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences

The Scientist who Discovered Bat Sonar and the Minds of Animals. Donald R Griffin: A Revolutionary. Volume 1