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In the early 1980s our Center was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts to advance the new science and seek applications that might reduce human suffering. We took on many projects and were joined by some brilliant academicians and practitioners. In 1989 a fire destroyed our building and most of our accumulated resources, but as often happens, it also brought new life and attracted new people to take up the cause. We now operate as a charitable nonprofit corporation thanks to the generosity of our donors and revenue from our professional conferences and activities.
We are fortunate to list among our trustees and advisors a number of first or second generation disciples of the original founders, including many recognized leaders in the field, some of whom served as presidents of the new science’s various scientific and professional organizations. By charter, we are limited to 75 trustees, but we also have access to a great many advisors and exceptional graduate students.
In looking over this distinguished list, a few questions occurred to us: How did these people come to adopt this discipline? Why did they abandon a conventional course in favor of this new and often controversial one? Most importantly, how did their behavioral solutions differ from others that addressed similar problems?
This book is the result of our decision to follow a fundamental dictate of the science: collect the data! We asked each of the contributors to prepare a response to the question: Why and how did you come to this field? We asked them to tell their first person accounts in a way that would give the reader not only a sense of who they are but also how they applied the science to their unique area. We selected contributors who represent different areas of our science to give the reader a peek into how it was applied to different challenges. We imposed no stylistic guidelines, believing that authors would reveal much about themselves by the manner in which they chose to comply with our request.
The resulting contributions are as varied as the individuals themselves. Nevertheless, some interesting generalities emerge. For example, some of our contributors have intellectual roots in philosophy. Many abandoned traditional psychology in favor of the more pragmatic approach of the new science of behavior. In this edition and the one that preceded it, you will find stories from women and men who took on some incredible challenges. We hope that the courage and persistence of our pioneers will be apparent in their stories and will serve to inspire future generations.
William L. Heward
T.V. Joe Layng
Julie M. Smith