American Psychological Foundation

Each year in elementary schools around the country, students hunker down to take variations of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, an intelligence test first developed by the late psychologist David Wechsler, PhD, in 1955. The test is also used clinically to help diagnose learning-related conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

While Wechsler's legacy as a pioneering psychologist has lived on in this way, his influence will persist in a different way as well: Through a partnership with the American Psychological Foundation, Wechsler's family, including son Leonard and grandsons Daniel and Neil, established the David Wechsler Early Career Grant for Innovative Work in Cognition, which will be awarded to early career psychologists pursuing innovative work in neuropsychology, intelligence or the assessment aspects of cognition. Beginning this year, the $25,000 grant will go to one applicant each year for five years.

"My dad loved the idea of research and learning," says Leonard Wechsler. "He was dedicated to the idea that you can't just leave something as is, you've got to investigate more and more."

David Wechsler was born in Romania and moved to the United States as a child. He earned his doctorate from Columbia University in 1925 and served as chief psychologist of the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City from 1932 to 1967. His intelligence tests challenged the prevailing IQ test at the time, the Binet IQ test, by considering intelligence as something that encompasses behavior, not only intellectual ability.

Even when he was in the late stages of lung cancer, Wechsler maintained his intellectual curiosity, his son says. Shortly before his death in 1981, he asked his cousin, a physician, which research project he should pursue — one that would take a year and a half, one that would take six months or one that would take just a few months. "I think you should do the one that's done in a few months," Leonard Wechsler remembers the doctor saying.

"He never quit working and was always looking for new and interesting ideas and people to work with," Leonard Wechsler says.

Wechsler also took great pride in mentoring students and kept in touch with them over time. That's one of the ways the grant reflects Wechsler's belief that empowering young people with resources to follow through on their ideas is valuable, Leonard Wechsler says. Wechsler's other son, Adam, a neurologist who died in 2008, would have "gotten joy out of" the gift as well, Leonard Wechsler says. "We look forward to seeing the research that's going to be done."

To apply for the David Wechsler Early Career Grant for Innovative Work in Cognition, go to APF Funding.