Historians' Corner

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My father, Fred Keller, turned 90 in 1989. In celebration, a banquet was held at the convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis in Milwaukee in May of that year. Following the banquet there was a surprise birthday party, organized by Julie Vargas and others. There was a magic show, in which Joe Morrow made a white rat magically appear from out of a water pitcher, and there were some amusing speakers (most notably, Keller’s grandson, Mike Cline). But the real highlight of the evening was Fred Skinner presenting an artwork of his own creation: a cardboard white rat in the act of pressing a tinfoil-covered telegraph key.

The rat and the telegraph key acknowledge Keller’s contributions to both basic animal research (light escape by the albino rat, the DRL schedule, etc.) and human learning (the Code-Voice Method of Morse-code instruction, the Personalized System of Instruction). I was told afterward that the choice of cardboard as a medium was inspired by a glue-gun that Skinner had received for Christmas that year!

Today The Rat occupies a place of honor in the small operant pigeon lab that I have built in my own retirement. I love it, not just as a tribute to my father, but also as testimony to B.F. Skinner’s originality, humor and inventiveness. It aptly commemorates the lifelong friendship of the two men.

John V. Keller
Hendersonville, NC

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