Sadly, you may have heard the distressing news that Dr. Kurt Salzinger, our colleague and former Chair of our Board of Trustees, passed away earlier this month as a result of a tragic accident. The link below is to a New York Times article that summarizes the memorial service that was held on November 11, 2018 in his honor. (NY Times:
Dr. Salzinger has supported and helped guide the Center since our founding in 1981. The announcement of his becoming President of the New York Academy of Sciences was in the first newsletter of the Center (Winter 1984/85):
Kurt Salzinger — A Loss to Behavioral Science and to the World

how to write creative writing essays Kurt was not only a valued friend and colleague, he was also one of the few surviving remnants of the vanished culture from which he absorbed his values. In her speech at Kurt’s memorial service, his wife Deanna illustrated Kurt’s dedication to truth and justice by relating an incident in which he took a principled stand. It reminded me of similarly revealing incidents I had observed in W.N. Schoenfeld’s seminar on verbal behavior that Kurt and I took in the Columbia University Psychology Department in the early 1950s. Schoenfeld was notorious for his way of provoking critical thought by making outrageous statements as if he believed them, while challenging the class to refute them. “There is no real evidence for evolution,” he might say.  In the ensuing debates, Schoenfeld, a virtuoso at Socratic repartee, was an intimidating adversary. But Kurt, always undaunted and intrepid, regularly stood up to Schoenfeld. It was there that I first witnessed Kurt taking principled stands, championing what he saw as the truth without regard to consequences. A few years later, in the McCarthy era of the 1950s, Kurt defended a Columbia Assistant Professor who had been unfairly accused when others were afraid to do so. Kurt exhibited that same dedication to truth and justice in his long and productive scientific career, including his sharp eye for incongruity that enabled his sophisticated, playful sense of humor. So, why do I describe Kurt as a remnant of a vanished culture? He and I, and some other behavioral scientists like Eric Kandel, grew up in the Vienna of the 1930s. Our parents were second-generation immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian empire’s far-flung provinces.  Vienna had been a magnet for the empire’s Jews for close to a century, particularly for those who had been synthesizing the values of the Enlightenment with those of justice and learning, and often brought with them a disposition to challenge traditional ways of thinking. The Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph welcomed those immigrants to Vienna and allowed them and their offspring to create the Vienna of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rudolf Carnap, Gustav Bergmann, Kurt Gödel, the Vienna circle, Otto Neurath, Sigmund Freud, Artur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Otto Frankel, Victor Frankl, Paul Lazarsfeld, Arnold Schönberg, Fritz Kreisler, Gustav Mahler, Bruno Walter, Gustav Klimt, Max Perutz, Lise Meitner, and countless other pioneers who were driven by the urge to challenge and override prevailing ideas. Since many who grew up in that environment absorbed its values, it is no wonder that Kurt and I were attracted to B.F. Skinner, W.N. Schoenfeld, and their naturalistic and empirical approaches to the study of behavior. Though that culture’s epicenter is long gone, its ripples continue to spread, as can be seen in the treasure trove of Kurt’s legacy. That legacy includes his contributions to scientific organizations in which he played leadership roles, like the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, the New York Academy of Science, the National Science Foundation, the Association for Behavior Analysis International, and the American Psychological Association, not to speak of his contributions to the science of behavior in such areas as schizophrenia, verbal behavior, child development, and learning processes in various animal species. Perhaps the most amazing ripple of all is the outstanding family Kurt gave the world: his children and grandchildren—the next generations of thoughtful, committed, and creative people. Thank you, Kurt.

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Francis Mechner, PhD
Trustee of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies
The Mechner Foundation

A Special Gift

writing essay on psalm 119 Donate to CCBS and receive Dr. Salzinger’s last contribution to the Center.