August 3, 1915–November 7, 2003
BY CHARLES G. GROSS
MOST SCIENTISTS SEEK—but never attain—two goals. The first is to discover something so new as to have been previously inconceivable. The second is to radically change the way the natural world is viewed. Don Griffin did both. He discovered (with Robert Galambos) a new and unique sensory world, echolocation, in which bats can perceive their surroundings by listening to echoes of ultrasonic sounds that they produce. In addition, he brought the study of animal consciousness back from the limbo of forbidden topics to make it a central subject in the contemporary study of brain and behavior.
Donald R. (Redfield) Griffin was born in Southampton, New York, but spent his early childhood in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in a rural area near Scarsdale, New York. His father, Henry Farrand Griffin, was a serious amateur historian and novelist, who worked as a reporter and in advertising before retiring early to pursue his literary interests. His mother, Mary Whitney Redfield, read to him so much that his father feared for his ability to learn to read. His favorite books were Ernest Thompson Seton’s animal