An international controversy has arisen over the award of this year’s Nobel Prize in life sciences to Konrad Lorenz, an Austrian scientist accused in some circles of having propagated Nazi racial theories. According to an article by Wallace Cloud appearing in the Dec. issue of “The Sciences,” a magazine published by the New York Academy of Sciences. Lorenz’s theories of human nature “holds that people are instinct-driven, born to kill, virtually incapable of self-control” and therefore, human society should be subject to strict order. Lorenz in his writings has also advocated “extermination of elements of the population loaded with dregs.”
In an Amsterdam television interview last month, Lorenz denied allegations of his Nazi past and denied that he had written in 1940 that the Nordic race was superior. He claimed that he had used Nazi racial terminology in some of his writings only for the sake of clarity. Prof. Nico Tinbergen, a British colleague who shares the Nobel award with Lorenz, said in the same interview that Lorenz’s actions were attributable to “political naivety.”
Cloud, who supplied the Jewish Telegraphic Agency with advance proof pages of his article due to be published Dec. 12, said in an accompanying letter that Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal has protested to the Nobel Committee over the award on grounds that Lorenz has refused to repudiate scientific papers on the “inferiority” of certain classes of people which he published during the Hitler regime. Cloud’s article quotes the American psychiatrist. Dr. Frederic Wertham as saying that “To give the Nobel Prize to Lorenz does unspeakable harm, to my mind. Millions of people will die for that reason.” Wertham feels that Lorenz’s ideas “are distinctly Nazi theories, developed in the intellectual climate that led to the killing of 275,000 German mental patients by their own psychiatrists,” Cloud wrote.
But a prominent anthropologist, Margaret Mead, “was shocked to learn that questions of Nazism were being raised.” Cloud reported. He said Dr. Mead told him that Lorenz, who was in the Austrian army and was a prisoner in Russia through World War II has “been systematically persecuted ever since.” In 1940, Dr. Lorenz, known best for his work “On Aggression,” was appointed head of the department of psychology at the University of Konigsberg in East Prussia which, according to Wertham was “the most Nazified university” at that time.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.