William M. Meredith
10 January 2007
William M. Meredith, a professor emeritus of psychology whose behind-the-scenes work in psychometrics revolutionized longitudinal-studies analysis, died at his El Cerrito home on Dec. 4. He was 77.
During five decades of work in statistical analysis, Meredith was particularly active in the areas of aging and educational testing.
"In a quiet way, his work provided the foundation for a whole new way to analyze longitudinal data, much more powerful and informative than anything we've had before," said Phil Cowan, professor emeritus of psychology and a colleague and friend of Meredith's.
Meredith was born into a farming family in Webster, S.D., in 1929. As Depression-era poverty spread across the country, his family moved around, finally settling in Tacoma, Wash., where he attended high school. After graduating, he entered the University of Washington in Seattle, studying psychology and mathematical statistics and earning a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in 1952, 1956, and 1958, respectively.
In 1960, Meredith was hired as an assistant professor of psychology at Berkeley. Though sympathetic to the free-speech and anti-war movements of Berkeley in the 1960s, said his daughter, Nancy Meredith, the senior Meredith was more likely to be found intensely working on his research than marching in the streets. He was promoted to associate professor in 1965 and professor in 1967.
Meredith authored or co-authored numerous papers and published two books: Basic Mathematical and Statistical Tables for Psychology and Education (McGraw Hill, 1966) and Methodological Issues in Aging Research (Springer, 1988). He served as president of the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology in 1989, winning the society's Sells Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1996, and was president of the Psychometric Society in 1992. He was also a consultant to various organizations and publications.
In 2000, Meredith co-published a longitudinal study tracking 236 participants, from adolescence to age 62, whose psychological health was found to improve steadily after the age of 30.
In 1982, while bodysurfing on the north shore of the island of Oahu in Hawaii, Meredith was slammed around by big waves. The accident damaged the nerves in his spine, and for a while he was paralyzed.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Vivian Meredith of El Cerrito; daughter Nancy Meredith of Richmond; and sons William of El Cerrito, Tom of El Sobrante, and Douglas of El Cerrito; four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
In accordance with Meredith's wishes, the family will not hold a formal memorial service. His ashes will be scattered in Washington state next summer.
- Yasmin Anwar