Psychoacoustics Pioneer Lois Lawrence Elliott (1931-1995)

The American Psychological Society has lost a supportive and productive member. Lois Elliott succumbed to a stroke in her home in Wilmette, Illinois, and died subsequently on October I. Born in Cincinnati, she attended Bryn Mawr College, and then completed a PhD in experimental psychology at Cornell University in 1956. As a research psychologist at Lackland Air Force Base she continued her research on visual perception, and then at the School of Aviation Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base she undertook work on deafness and psychoacoustics, leading toward her early publications on forward and backward masking.

In 1963, she joined the Research Department at Central Institute for the Deaf (CIO), where she was also Associate Professor of Psychology at Washington University. Her psychoacoustic work continued on temporal aspects of masking and frequency discrimination. In addition, as Coordinator of School-Clinic studies, she carried out important work on memory, information processing, language, and achievement tests in deaf children. A novel contribution was her organizing a computer-based record-keeping system for CID’s School and Clinics, one of the first of its kind in 1966. This valuable longitudinal database is still in existence and contains 30 years of clinical data on adults and children with communication disorders.

In 1970 she moved to Washington, DC, first as Chief of the Project Centers Branch of the Bureau for the Education for the Handicapped, and then as Head of Directed Research in Communication Disorders in the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (now known as the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke).

In 1976 she joined the faculty at Northwestern University as Professor of Audiology in the School of Speech and as Professor of Otolaryngology in the Medical School. She was for a time Head of the Program in Audiology and Hearing Impairment. In addition to her continuing research on hearing and language comprehension, in recent years she organized and administered a very popular Human Communications Sciences Program, which has recently been accepted as part of an undergraduate honors program in medical education. Her interest in children, which began at cm, continued at Northwestern with a focus on auditory processing by children with language and learning disabilities, her tireless mentorship of students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels spawned numerous productive careers in communications sciences and disorders.

Lois had been an active participant in the Psychonomic Society and in the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), where she was elected to the Executive Council to serve from 1974 to 1977. She has been a member of the Technical Committee on Psychological and Physiological Acoustics and Chair of the Medals and Awards Committee of the ASA.

Lois’s adventurous spirit and love of animals led her to enjoy photographic nature tours throughout the world, including safaris in Africa, India, and the Galapagos Islands. Her particular affinity for felines in the wild was matched only by her devotion to the domesticated species, particularly her Himalayan cats. Most recently a new occupation had been her painting, which had grown to the extent that some of her work is shown in local galleries. Lois Elliott will be sorely missed.

Observer Vol.9, No.3 May/June, 1996

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