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information on The Joseph Zubin Awards

Joseph Zubin, founder of the Biometrics Research programs at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in 1954, and the VA Medical Center/University of Pittsburgh in 1977, was born on October 9, 1900, in Raseiniai, Lithuania, which was then a small village in the vicinity of Kaunas. In 1908, Joe and his family emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, where he spent the remainder of his childhood and adolescence. His lifelong identity as an educator took root early, beginning at the age of 13 as a teacher of Hebrew. In 1921, Joe received a baccalaureate in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. He became increasingly interested in psychology while taking graduate courses in chemistry and physics at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1927, he entered the psychology program at Columbia University, where he was influenced by pioneers E. L. Thorndike, R. S. Woodworth, John Dewey, William Kilpatrick, and Charles Spearman. His doctorate in educational psychology was awarded by Columbia in 1932. Joe's dissertation (1931) involved an experimental study of the effects of incentives on rivalry in children, the data from which he submitted to factor analysis. The approach taken in this early work presaged his later focus on experimental methods, psychometrics, and statistical techniques, which were topics of primary concern in his published work during the period from 1930 through 1960.

The contributions resulting from Joe's lengthy and prolific career span the domains of research, teaching, and administration. His research career began in 1932 when he volunteered at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where he spent the greater part of his professional life. Also, during this time he met his wife, Winifred, and in 1934, they established a home in Leonia, New Jersey, where they began raising their three children. From 1936 to 1938, Joe served as Psychologist Statistician for the National Committee for Mental Hygiene. His first official appointment at the New York State Psychiatric Institute came in 1938, as Associate Research psychologist in the Department of Research Psychology, then headed by Carney Landis. In 1956, he was appointed Chief of Psychiatric Research in Biometrics, a position that included responsibility for creating a Biometrics Research Unit for the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. Joe occupied this office for the next 20 years, and under his directorship the program increased from one section of two scientists and support staff in 1956, to a full research program with nine separate divisions and 109 staff members in 1975. The program was multidisciplinary, including the diverse orientations of anthropology, behavioral analysis and modification, biostatistics, developmental psychology, gerontology, psychiatric diagnosis and evaluation, psychophysiology, and sociology.

Joe's most significant contributions were in the area of experimental psychopathology and in the theoretical understanding of the etiology of schizophrenia. The development of a biometric approach as a standard for research in psychopathology was heavily influenced by Joe's emphasis on objective measurement and sound experimental methodology. Also influential was his belief that the most powerful approach for addressing the etiology of psychiatric disorders lies in the use of integrative frameworks, which use multiple levels of analysis simultaneously. This integrative perspective is seen in his progressive formulations of vulnerability theory, an interactive model that posited psychiatric disorder to be the outcome of a confluence of genetic, biological, and psychosocial factors. Such an interactive approach is quite common today, but was unusual when he developed the initial framework during the early 1960s, a period during which strong behavioristic and mental-illness-as-myth orientations were popular.

No less important was Joe's gift for fostering productive collaborations. Science was a highly social process for Joe. He would often become interested in a problem as a result of a stimulating conversation, which would be followed by further conversations about ways in which to tackle the problem. He would finally bring together people with the requisite expertise and enthusiasm for a multidisciplinary collaboration. These collaborations frequently resulted in important contributions, such as the Columbia-Greystone Topectomy Project with Carney Landis, H. E. King, and Fred Mettler, which evaluated the effects of topectomy on psychiatric and cognitive functioning ( 1947 -1949); the United States-United Kingdom Psychiatric Diagnosis Project with Mort Kramer and Barry Gurland (from the U.S.), and John Cooper (from the U.K.), which compared diagnostic practices in New York and London, thereby laying the groundwork for addressing the issue of diagnostic reliability ( 1972); and the "discovery" of the P300 component of the event-related potential with Samuel Sutton, M. Braren, and E. Roy John, which was influential in establishing the area of cognitive psychophysiology ( 1965).

Joe's impact was international in scope, as seen in the influence of his thought on the direction of American and European research in psychopathology, particularly schizophrenia. Recognition for his leadership ability is reflected in his presidencies of the American Psychopathological Association (1951-1952) and the Armerican College of Neuropsychopharmacology ( 1971-1972), as well as in his serving as member of the Board of Professional Affairs of the American Psychological Association (APA; 1967-1970) and as representative of Division 12 (1953-1955) on APA's Council of Representatives.  Awards and honors were numerous, including recipient of the Award in the Behavioral Sciences by the New Academy of Sciences for distinguished contributions to psychopathology (1981); twice recipient of the Paul Hoch Award of the American Psychopathological Association ( 1968 and 1984); Doktor Honoris Causa, University of Lund, Sweden (1972); Stanley R. Dean Award by the American College of Psychiatrists (1974 ); ScD, University of Rochester ( 1976); Honorary Fellow and recipient of Presidential Commendation, American Psychiatric Association ( 1979); Distinguished Scientist Award, Section III of Division 12, American Psychological Association (1975); Van Gieson Award by New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University ( 1990); and American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Applications of Psychology (1990).

Joe's professional accomplishments bear the mark of his inimitable personal style. His social network was vast, and he was well-known for his warmth and humor His colleagues were his family and friends, as there was no clear distinction between the professional and the personal for him. Joe was mentor to countless students and young colleagues; his primary requirement was that one approach ideas in interesting ways and with experimental rigor. His presence at professional meetings was invariably marked by his insightful questions, which he raised during discussion periods. These provocative interjections reflected both his insatiable curiosity and his delight in being at the center of the action.

Most remarkable among Joe's character strengths were his tenacity and unrelenting optimism. After his forced retirement from the New York Psychiatric Institute at the age of75, he moved to Pittsburgh where he created a second Biometrics Research Program, in collaboration with Stuart Steinhauer. This continuing program is directed at determining the cognitive indicants of psychopathology in psychiatric patients and their family members. From 1977 until his death in 1990, he held the positions of Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Columbia University; Distinguished Research Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Research Career Scientist, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pittsburgh; and more recently, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh. Reliably undaunted, on the eve of his 90th birthday he submitted a letter of intent to a national funding agency proposing a prospective study of relapse in schizophrenia, in collaboration with Daniel P. van Kammen. Joe died on Decemher 18, 1990, at the age of 90.

(from Ruth Condray, American Psychologist, 47: 810-811, 1992) 

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