Running Commentary

After a long and very distinguished career, Neal Miller died in his sleep early Saturday morning, March 23, at the age of 92. A past-president of APA (1961), he was without question one of the giants of American psychology, and his work was known and respected throughout the world.

Neal joined APA in 1933 and throughout his 69 years as a member, he served on a number of boards and committees both before and after his APA presidency. In 1991, he received the Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology Award from APA. There are not enough words in this column even to list all of the other awards and honors he received during his career.

Neal Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisc., on Aug. 3, 1909. He grew up in the Pacific Northwest where his father, Irving Miller, was chair of the department of education and psychology at Western Washington State College. The careers of Irving and Neal Miller spanned the entire history of American psychology.

At Yale, where Neal received his doctorate in 1935 and spent most of his academic career, he did his dissertation on Freudian repression and Pavlovian inhibition. He subsequently went to Vienna to study psychoanalysis with Anna Freud as his advisor and Heinz Hartman as his analyst.

My first acquaintance with Neal Miller's work was reading "Personality and Psychotherapy" as a first- semester graduate student. I remember being stunned--not just with his masterful integration of learning theory, personality theory and psychotherapy, but with the brilliance and clarity of his writing. The first psychology book, I have to admit, that I read with pleasure.

In 1980, 30 years later, I was part of a group of psychologists, including Neal, Herb Simon, Florence Denmark and Harold Stevenson, who were invited to China by the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Science. We were among the first psychologists invited to visit China after decades of alienation between our two countries. We were warmly welcomed by the institute staff, who escorted us to psychological research laboratories and clinical facilities around the country.

One memory of that trip that always makes me smile occurred at a mental hospital, where a Chinese psychiatrist, trained in Western as well as Eastern medicine, described the acupuncture points one stimulates in treating mental patients. Neal, ever the researcher, listened carefully then exclaimed, "You have an excellent opportunity for research, here. You could stimulate the correct sites with one group and random sites with another and determine if there is a difference." The psychiatrist smiled and said, "We did that 5,000 years ago."

No one laughed harder than Neal Miller. He was a great teacher and researcher and a wise and warm colleague. He will be deeply missed.