Marian Dawkins

Marian Dawkins at the Royal Society admissions day in 2014
Marian Ellina Stamp

(1945-02-13) 13 February 1945 (age 78)
Hereford, England
EducationQueen's College, London[2]
Alma materSomerville College, Oxford (BA, DPhil)
Known forAnimal welfare science
(m. 1967; div. 1984)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
ThesisThe Mechanism of Hunting by 'Searching Image' in Birds (1970)
Doctoral advisorNiko Tinbergen[1]

Marian Stamp Dawkins CBE FRS[3] (born Marian Ellina Stamp; 13 February 1945)[2][4] is a British biologist and professor of ethology at the University of Oxford.[5] Her research interests include vision in birds, animal signalling, behavioural synchrony, animal consciousness and animal welfare.[6][7][8]


Dawkins was educated at Queen's College, London[2] and Somerville College, Oxford,[2] where she earned bachelor's and PhD (1970) degrees. Her doctoral research was supervised by Niko Tinbergen.[1]

Career and research

Dawkins was appointed a lecturer in zoology in 1977 and in 1998 was made professor of animal behaviour. She is currently (2014) Head of the Animal Behaviour Research Group and is the Director of the John Krebs Field Laboratory.[9]

Dawkins has written extensively on animal behaviour and issues of animal welfare. Along with other academics in the field, such as Ian Duncan,[10] Dawkins promoted the argument that animal welfare is about the feelings of animals.[11] This approach indicates the belief that animals should be considered as sentient beings. Dawkins wrote, "Let us not mince words: Animal welfare involves the subjective feelings of animals.[12]

In 1989, Dawkins published a study in which she filmed hens from above while they performed common behaviours (e.g. turning, standing, wing-stretching). From these films, she calculated the amount of floor-space required by the hens during these behaviours and compared this to the amount of floor-space available in battery cages. She was able to show that many of these common behaviours were highly restricted, or prevented, in battery cages.[13]

In 1990, she contributed to a paper in which she developed her ideas regarding how to assess animal welfare by asking questions of animals. She proposed using preference tests and consumer demand studies to ask what animals prefer (e.g. space, social contact) and how highly motivated they are for these. She argued that animals were more likely to suffer if they were not provided with resources for which they are highly motivated.[12]

Central to her most recent (2012) view on animal welfare is scepticism about whether science can establish that animals have consciousness and therefore its role in definition and measurement of animal welfare and suffering. Instead, her view is that good animal welfare rests on determining the needs and wants of animals, which do not require that they are conscious.[14] These theses are presented in her book Why Animals Matter: Animal Consciousness, Animal Welfare, and Human Well-being (2012).[15] Her views on animal consciousness have been criticised by evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff, who argues that she too readily rejects anthropomorphic research on animals.[16][17] She responded to the criticism by stating her position as "wrongly interpreted", and says that "my concern is to make the case for animal emotions as watertight as possible and thereby to strengthen it. That is the way science progresses and always has."[18][19]

Selected publications

Awards and honours

Dawkins was awarded the RSPCA/British Society for Animal Protection prize in 1991, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour's Niko Tinbergen Medal in 2009, and the World Poultry Science Association Robert Fraser Gordon Medal in 2011.[9]

Dawkins was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to animal welfare.[20] In 2014, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) for “substantial contributions to the improvement of natural knowledge”.[3]

Personal life

She was born in Hereford to Arthur Maxwell Stamp and (Alice) Mary Stamp (née Richards).[2]

On 19 August 1967, she married fellow ethologist Richard Dawkins in the Protestant church in Annestown, County Waterford, Ireland.[2][21] They divorced in 1984. She remains known as Marian Stamp Dawkins.[2]


  1. ^ a b Dawkins, Marian (1970). The Mechanism of Hunting by 'Searching Image' in Birds. (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. OCLC 952665959. EThOS Archived from the original on 12 September 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Anon (2017). "Dawkins, Prof. Marian Ellina Stamp". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U275604. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b Anon (2014). "Professor Marian Dawkins CBE FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2018.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  4. ^ "Marian Ellina Dawkins (née Stamp) – Person – National Portrait Gallery".
  5. ^ "Staff:Academic Marian Dawkins". University of Oxford, Department of Zoology. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  6. ^ Guilford, T.; Dawkins, M. S. (1991). "Receiver psychology and the evolution of animal signals" (PDF). Animal Behaviour. 42: 1–14. doi:10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80600-1. S2CID 6582428. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2022. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  7. ^ Marian Dawkins publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  8. ^ Dawkins, M. S. (1983). "Battery hens name their price: Consumer demand theory and the measurement of ethological 'needs'" (PDF). Animal Behaviour. 31 (4): 1195–1205. doi:10.1016/S0003-3472(83)80026-8. S2CID 53137284.
  9. ^ a b "Prof Marian Dawkins, CBE". Debrett's. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  10. ^ Duncan, I.J.H. (1996). "Animal welfare defined in terms of feelings". Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A. 27: 29–35.
  11. ^ Dawkins, M.S. (1980). Animal Suffering: The Science Of Animal Welfare. Chapman & Hall, London.
  12. ^ a b Dawkins, M. S. (2011). "From an animal's point of view: Motivation, fitness, and animal welfare" (PDF). Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 13 (1): 1. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00077104. S2CID 145424732. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 February 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  13. ^ Dawkins, M. S.; Hardie, S. (1989). "Space needs of laying hens". British Poultry Science. 30 (2): 413–416. doi:10.1080/00071668908417163.
  14. ^ Clark, Judy Macarthur (2013). "Crystallizing the Animal Welfare State Why Animals Matter: Animal Consciousness, Animal Welfare, and Human Well-being. Marian Stamp Dawkins . Oxford University Press, 2012 . 224 pp., illus. $24.95". BioScience. 63: 57–59. doi:10.1525/bio.2013.63.1.13., (ISBN 9780199747511 cloth) Free access icon
  15. ^ Dawkins, M. S. (2012). Why Animals Matter: Animal Consciousness, Animal Welfare, and Human Well-being. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-958782-7.
  16. ^ Marc, Bekoff. "Do animals think and feel?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  17. ^ Bekoff, M. (2012). "Animals are conscious and should be treated as such". New Scientist. 215 (2883): 24–25. Bibcode:2012NewSc.215...24B. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(12)62435-X.
  18. ^ Dawkins, Marian Stamp (2012) Convincing the Unconvinced That Animal Welfare Matters Huffington Post, 8 June 2012.
  19. ^ Dawkins, Marian Stamp (2013) What do animals want? Edge, 31 October 2013.
  20. ^ "No. 60728". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2013. p. 8.
  21. ^ Richard Dawkins, An Appetite for Wonder – The Making of a Scientist, p.201.

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