Walter Heiligenberg

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Walter F. Heiligenberg (born January 31, 1938 in Berlin , † September 8, 1994 in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania ) was a German behavioral biologist and neuroethologist .


After graduating from the humanistic high school in Münster , Heiligenberg began studying zoology , botany and chemistry in Münster in 1958 . He later enrolled in Munich to do his doctorate in 1964 with the Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen . In the following eight years Heiligenberg researched the behavior of tropical fish and crickets in Seewiesen. In 1972 he accepted an invitation from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego , where he was supposed to investigate the behavior of weak electric fish.

In 1976 he became a professor and professor at the University of California at San Diego.

In 1991, Heiligenberg's first wife Zsuzsa died, with whom he had three children. In 1993 he married an Australian musician whose daughter was born 18 days after his death.

Heiligenberg died in 1994 when USAir Flight 427 crashed in Pennsylvania .


Heiligenberg devoted himself to researching the physiological basis of the electrical communication of these fish and the resulting behavior.

Walter Heiligenberg was a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .



  • Principles of Electrolocation and Jamming Avoidance in Electric Fish. A Neuroethological Approach. Springer, Heidelberg 1977, ISBN 3-540-08367-7
  • Neural Nets in Electric Fish. The MIT Press, Cambridge 1991, ISBN 0-262-08203-9