15 January 2003 |
When word of his death reached the psychology community, there was an outpouring of sentiment from around the world.
“I remember my many meetings and talks with him. His brilliant contributions to the study of emotion are an important part of the history of psychology,” said Meng Zhaolan, past chair of the psychology department at Peking University, China.
“Many of the top stress and emotion researchers in Israel today — and there are many included in this fold — owe their career and promotion to Dick’s support,” said Moshe Zeidner, dean of research at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research of Emotions at the University of Haifa, Israel. “I will certainly miss this gentleman and scholar.”
A graduate of the City College of New York in 1942, Lazarus served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He earned his doctorate in 1947 from the University of Pittsburgh and then taught at Johns Hopkins University and Clark University before moving to Berkeley to head the clinical psychology program.
Lazarus’s work was influential in many ways. At a time when psychology tried to understand human behavior by first understanding simple organisms engaging in simple behaviors learned by associations, rewards or punishments, Lazarus instead stressed the study of cognition. His position eventually won out. He also helped keep alive the concept of emotion. His theory of emotion centered on the concept of appraisal — how an individual evaluates the impact of an event on his or her self or well-being — a concept he elaborated in his classic 1991 work, “Emotion and Adaptation.”
His interest in cognition led Lazarus to research consciousness and unconsciousness, and to extend cognition into fields such as stress and coping. One line of inquiry was the importance of preparing a person for emotion: he and his associates documented that a person’s emotional reactions to witnessing a film of painful circumcision rites could be “short-circuited” by a soundtrack describing the procedure in a matter-of-fact way. These studies are now considered classics.
Lazarus received many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellow-ship, honorary doctorates from the University of Haifa and the Johannes Gutenberg University, and in 1989, the American Psychological Association’s Distin-guished Scientific Contribution to Psychology Award. Of his 13 books, five were written after his retirement in 1991. Just prior to his death, he completed a treatise on the emotion of gratitude, an emotion seldom studied or discussed in psychology.
In addition to his wife, Bernice, he is survived by their two children, David Lazarus of Pleasant Hill and Nancy Holliday of Orinda, and four grandchildren. The family held a private memorial service in December.
Molly was 16 in 1926 when she met Ernest — 25 at the time, and a member of the Yale physics faculty — on a blind date. A brilliant student with near-perfect recall, she earned a degree at Vassar College in bacteriology and continued her graduate education at Radcliffe College, taking most of her courses at Harvard’s medical school. According to her family, so rare were women students at that time that she was excluded from some anatomy lectures in order to shield her “feminine sensibilities,” a transgression she never forgave.
The Lawrences became a celebrity couple in Berkeley when Ernest won the 1939 Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention of the cyclotron. He went on to become a major figure in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and one of the nation’s most prominent scientific leaders after the war. He founded the labs that would eventually become the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Molly and Ernest had two sons, Eric and Robert, and four daughters, Margaret, Mary, Barbara, and Susan.
After her husband’s death in 1958 at the age of 57, Lawrence not only raised their children but also took in two teenaged neighbor girls the night their mother died. Despite her responsibilities as a single parent, she served on the boards of numberous community organizations.
Lawrence is survived by her sister Margaret (Peggy) Biles of Bradbury, Calif.; sons J. Eric Lawrence of Culver City and Robert Lawrence of Stockton; daughters Margaret Norman of Long Beach, Mary Prud’homme of San Francisco, Barbara Petit of Berkeley, and Susan Lawrence of Berkeley; Cheryl Larmore of Alamo and Darlene Bruno of Berkeley; plus 11 grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will held be at 4 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24, at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 100 Centennial Dr. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations may be made to LHS. Checks may be mailed to the University of California, Berkeley Resource Development, Lawrence Hall of Science, #5200, Berkeley, CA, 94720-5200.
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