Margaret Bastock

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Margaret Bastock was a zoologist and geneticist. She carried out influential work in the 1950s, establishing links between genes and behaviour.

Life and career[edit]

Margaret Bastock was born in the mid-1920s. She began a degree at Oxford University, but her studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. During the war she worked for the BBC, but afterwards she returned to Oxford and completed her undergraduate studies in zoology.[1] Bastock then became a member of St Anne's College, Oxford and studied motivational drives in animal behaviour, working with Desmond Morris. In 1950 she began working towards her PhD in Niko Tinbergen’s laboratory.[2] She studied the relationship between behaviour, genetics and evolution using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. In 1956, she published the first evidence that a single gene could change behaviour. She studied a mutation called yellow in Drosophila and showed that this gene or a closely linked gene affected the fly’s mating behaviour.

After completing her PhD, Bastock continued working on courtship behaviour and wrote a textbook on the subject. She also collaborated with another student of Tinbergen, Aubrey Manning, whom she married in 1959. Bastock moved to Edinburgh with Manning in the 1960s and they had two sons. Bastock continued to work in science, studying child development and aggressive behaviour. She died of cancer in 1982.

Key publications[edit]

  • “A gene mutation which changes a behaviour pattern”. Bastock, M. 1956. Evolution, 10: 421-439.
  • “Some comments on conflict and thwarting in animals”. Bastock, M. Morris, D, Moynihan, M. 1953. Behaviour, 6: 66-74.
  • Courtship: a zoological study. Bastock, M. 1967. London, Heinemann.


  1. ^ Cobb, M. 2007. A gene mutation which changed animal behaviour: Margaret Bastock and the yellow fly. [1]
  2. ^ Kruuk, H. 2003. Niko’s Nature: the Life of Niko Tinbergen and his Science of Animal Behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press