The Greatest Generation of Behavior Analysts
Historians’ Corner contributed by Dr. Andy Lattal
Dr. Andy Lattal is Centennial Professor of Psychology at West Virginia University, where, since 1972, he has taught and mentored 42 doctoral students. He has published research on a variety of topics related to the reinforcement and elimination of operant behavior and the history and philosophy of behavior analysis. A former Editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, he also has held major leadership positions in many of the major organizations dedicated to advancing behavior analysis. His service to behavior analysis has been recognized with SABA’s Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis and its International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis awards.
West Virginia University
Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, Member, Board of Directors
Journalist Tom Brokaw labeled them The Greatest Generation. Both my father and my father-in-law were of that generation of Americans caught up in the horrors of the Second World War. Along with them, and millions of others, were people who later contributed significantly to behavior analysis. Three such people – there were many others – who served in America’s armed forces were Jack Michael, Joseph Brady, and Ogden Lindsley. The story of Norman Guttman, who served in the U. S. Army Signal Corps during that time, was told in an earlier piece about the history of the snap lead (“The connection between your PJs and the history of behavior analysis,” Current Repertoire,
April/May, 2021). Guttman brought these versatile connectors to Skinner’s lab as a result of his (Guttman’s) experience with military communications systems.
Jack Michael (1926-2020) was one of the most respected teachers of behavior analysis, not to mention his lofty status of being singled out by Skinner as the one person who really understood his (Skinner’s) analysis of verbal behavior. Jack’s teaching was recognized by the American Psychological Association in 1971, with its prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award. Many other such awards for both teaching and service followed, including ABAIs award for Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis (2002) . Jack was drafted into the U. S. Army in June, 1944, after having spent the previous 9 months as a freshman at UCLA. From February to June1945, Jack served as an ammunition bearer in the 97th Infantry Division. A latecomer to the European Theater of Operations, in April 1945, the division participated in the final push in Germany to victory on May 8, 1945. Following the end of the war in Europe, the division was deployed next to Cebu, Philippine Islands, where they set sail for Japan in September, 1945 as part of the US Army of Occupation of Japan. By now Private-First Class Michael was invited to re-up and was offered training as a parachutist, which he wisely declined. He returned from the war to complete his B.A., M. A. and Ph.D., all while living at home and going to school, like most WWI veterans, under the auspices of the GI Bill. The rest is behavioral history.
Joseph V. Brady (1922- 2011) was an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) graduate of Fordham University who served as an officer – a combat infantry platoon leader – during 1944 and 1945 in Germany. In the period immediately following VE day, he was assigned to be the Chief Clinical Psychologist at a military hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, designated as the Neuropsychiatric Center of the European Command, despite no training in the psychiatric field. He rose to the occasion and then returned to the University of Chicago for his Ph.D. degree under a former Skinner student, Howard Hunt. Brady continued in the military and retired as a Colonel in 1970. His career both during and following his military service is one of the most storied in behavior analysis. He founded what is now the Institute for Behavioral Resources in Baltimore, was at the time of his death the longest holder of continuous grant support from NASA (his space work began when he was in the army – soon after Sputnik was launched by the USSR in the late 1950s), one of the founders of behavioral pharmacology, a pioneer in the study of environmental variables and stress, an administrator extraordinaire, and at least Jack Michael’s and Og Lindsley’s equal in terms of enthusiasm for and commitment to behavior analysis.
Last, but certainly not least, is T Sgt Ogden Lindsley (1922-2004), formerly of the 15th AF 98th Bombardment Group of the U. S. Army Air Corps, which he joined in January 1942. Serving as its Flight Engineer, Og’s plane was shot from the sky by enemy anti-aircraft fire over Albania on August 11, 1944, his birthday. Og and his fellow crew members survived the crash but were captured by partisans and traded to Croatians, who, in turn, surrendered them to the Nazis in Yugoslavia. They were taken through Yugoslavia to Budapest and then to Stalag Luft IV in Gross Tychow, Pomerania (East-Germany-Poland area) . Never one to sit around twiddling his thumbs, Og subsequently escaped from a POW camp at Fallingbostel, Germany and made his way across Allied lines. He eventually was returned to the U.S. For his valor he was awarded the Air Medal and, for the wounds he incurred during the ordeal, the Purple Heart Medal. Og returned to Harvard after his discharge from service and completed his Ph.D. under Skinner. He then went on to establish the first human operant lab at Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham MA and from there to a distinguished career in both applied behavior analysis and, especially, behavioral education.
Other prominent behavior analysts contributed their skills to the war effort in the military and in ways other than military service. One of the many sources of Skinner’s fame was his Project Pelican, designed to train pigeons to guide bombs onto military targets. Fred Keller’s involvement in teaching military personnel Morse Code during the war is described in many places, including his autobiography (Keller et al., 2009).
Like the others who served, these three future behavior analysts had their lives and careers ahead of them at the time of their service. Before those careers could take them to leadership in behavior analysis, they were called on to serve their country. And they did. Such were the times, and probably why Brokaw labeled them as he did.
*I am indebted to Alyce M. Dickinson and Kathleen T. Brady for providing the photos of and information about the wartime lives of, respectively, Jack Michael and Joe Brady.
Keller, F. S. (2009). At my own pace: The autobiography of Fred S. Keller. Edited by J. S. Bailey, M. Burch, A. C. Catania, & J. Michael. Sloane Press.