Dethier, Vincent Gaston
To Know a Fly

No table of contents is included in To Know A Fly; however, the concluding passage of N. Tinbergen's foreword describes the book and its author:

...It is fortunate, therefore, that there are men like Professor Dethier who are not merely outstanding researchers but who also have the gift of clear communication.   These abilities, which Dethier possesses to an exceptional degree, ensure him a large and fascinated audience whenever he reports about his work to meetings of professional biologists, in addition, they enable him to keep open a line of communication with non-biologists.  His task is in a way made easier because he happens to be interested in (and in a sense, to have fallen in love with) one of the most common animals in the world: the humble fly.  Although most people will think of a fly merely as a pest to get rid of, flies are familiar to everyone and therefore make a good starting point for the non-scientist.

Among biologists, Dethier further occupies a rather unusual position.  His main interest is to understand the behavior of a fly, but he has managed to avoid the almost schizophrenic split one finds in biology, which makes many investigators study either the movements of the intact animal, or the processes going on in tiny little bits of its nervous system.  The students of the intact animal are often called psychologists or ethologists; those of bits of live machinery, physiologists.  Dethier is neither, or rather he is both in one, and in his work he shows how research into the way animals work leads step by step from psychology into physiology, or from physiology into psychology.

This book is outstanding also in another way.  It does not merely explain how one sets about the task of learning how a fly works; it also shows the research worker enjoying his work.  It shows him pursuing with absorbing interest the problems that present themselves in his work.  It explains why the scientist, because of his eager curiosity, at times appears childish to others.  But most important, it shows that the scientist, in spite of being, perhaps, a little possessed, at times somewhat childish, is fundamentally no different from other people with a calling in life.