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Obituary: Esther Stillman Thelen

Prominent psychologist, Esther Stillman Thelen, known for her work with babies and early motor development died on December 29th at the age of 63.

By Amena Hassan

Prominent psychologist, Esther Stillman Thelen, known for her work with babies and early motor development died on December 29th at the age of 63. Her studies on infant perception and cognition, which were highly influential in psychology, also extended into the fields of cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science, and robotics.

A psychology professor at Indiana University, where she headed the Infant Motor Development Laboratory, Thelen's career began with her examination of the grooming patterns of wasps. Her research in ethology eventually led to her ground-breaking work on infants, where she observed the patterns and interplay of factors in early development that related to reaching, crawling and learning to walk. Thelen was also president of the Society for Research in Child Development.

"Those of us who worked with her in the governance of SRCD were impressed with her breadth of knowledge and her concern for improving the lives of young children," stated John Hagen, Executive Officer for SRCD. "Her legacy includes the innovative work of her students that not only pursues her theoretical contributions to understand cognitive development but also application to children with developmental disabilities such as Downs Syndrome. Professor Thelen will be deeply missed and we are ever grateful to her for her contributions at so many levels."