Gordon Bower Receives National Medal of Science

Gordon Bower joined the nation’s scientific elite on July 27th as he received the 2005 National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony. Bower said he was “pleasantly surprised and greatly honored by [his] selection” and humbly noted that the award recognizes not only him, but also the research he has conducted with his many students and collaborators.

APS Past President Bower, the Albert Ray Lang Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Stanford, was honored “for his unparalleled contributions to cognitive and mathematical psychology, for his lucid analyses of remembering and reasoning, and for his important service to psychology and American science.”

Bower completed his graduate work at Yale and then joined the faculty at Stanford, where he spent his illustrious career studying animal learning, mathematical models, memory organization, emotional influences on cognition, narrative memory, and human associative memory. His work contributed not only to the excellence of the Stanford psychology department, but also helped shape the emerging field of cognitive science, which led the Review of General Psychology to rank him 42nd among the 100 most important psychologists of the 20th century.

Established in 1959, the National Medal of Science awards originally were given only to researchers in the “physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences,” but in 1980, Congress added researchers in the social and behavioral sciences. According to Bower, the award “boosts the recognition of the behavioral sciences in general and psychology in particular.” Most of the psychologists who have won a National Medal have been neuroscience or quantitative psychology researchers, but Bower hopes that “the scope of the award process can be extended to recognize the distinguished work from the more social and personality sides of our field.”

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), among the handful of psychologists who previously have won the National Medal of Science are Neal Miller, Bower’s graduate mentor at Yale and the first psychologist to win a National Medal of Science, and William K. Estes, whom Bower calls his intellectual mentor.

Bower was accompanied at the ceremony by his wife, Sharon, his son, Tony, and his grandson, Micah. More information about the medals and this year’s winners is available at http://www.nationalmedals.org/.

Observer Vol.20, No.8 September, 2007

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