Jan 172015

Eugene Galanter
Columbia University

I met Bob Bush at Dartmouth at the Social Science Research Council Mathematics meeting, in the summer of 1953. I also met Fred Mosteller, Leon Festinger, and Paul Lazarsfeld there; a mighty triumverate. Bush, soon a close friend, introduced me to Duncan at a meeting in New York in 1954. Later, Bob and I worked on some experimental problems when I was at the Psychoacoustics Laboratory at Harvard from 1956-58. I stayed there for the 1956-57 term, but by then Bob had moved to the New York School of Social Work at Columbia University. Duncan was already at Columbia, and this was when we all began meeting together routinely. The general topic was choice behavior—learning, psychophysics, and preference.

During the middle of that year Duncan accepted a position at Harvard, which spread our trio out along the northeast coast. To continue our meetings as well as to run some experiments we were designing, we needed financial support. The three of us applied for and shortly received a grant in the sum of $10,000 from the American Philosophical Society. They sent a checkbook. When we had spent all the funds they simply asked us to return the check stubs. Hi-ho a simpler life.

At least one of those meetings had interesting consequences. A train trip to Boston on Thanksgiving weekend gave Bob and me time to discuss the problem Penn’s Department of Psychology was having finding a new chairman. Penn was beginning to shift from its postwar concentration on training clinical psychologists towards a commitment to a strong experimental program in several fields of psychology. By the time Bob and I arrived at Duncan’s Cambridge apartment, we had hatched the idea of proposing Bob’s name as chairman. Among its advantages would be the establishment of an Eastern haven where mathematical psychology could be fostered. The idea appealed to us, but the political realities were formidable. Just how realistic was it for an assistant professor (me) to propose as chairman of one of the oldest departments of psychology in the United States, a recently converted physicist who was then an applied mathematician in a School of Social Work, especially when one of his first proposed appointments would be Duncan, an MIT graduate with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

During the first two years of Bob’s chairmanship at Penn, the academic year ended with two months of close collaboration when Duncan, Bob, and I rented a house in Pigeon Cove, near Rockport, MA. We were joined there for part of the time by Fred Mosteller. While there work was completed on four papers—one by Bush and Estes’ (1959); one by Bush, Galanter, & Luce (1959); one by Bush & Mosteller (1959); and Galanter & Bush (1959), That fall Duncan joined the Penn faculty and further travel became unnecessary. The three of us became so close that we were like family in our thinking and planning.

Ultimately when all three of us settled in Philadelphia, we bought houses near each other. We socialized together, made decisions about the development of the department, and even though Bob was the Chairman, decisions were made by the three of us. At Penn, we began working on the Handbook of Mathematical Psychology and the Readings in Mathematical Psychology.

During a year at the Stanford Center, I took flying lessons, and became so centered on flying that I bought my first airplane. Duncan often went flying with me. We traveled together to various meetings in America (by plane) and Europe, but always returned to Penn, until I received an invitation from the University of Washington. I was asked to come there to be Chairman and hopefully to perform the same transformation there, that we had put together at Penn.

I visited Seattle in the spring of 1962, and arrived for the fall term. That Christmas Patricia and I were married. We bought a 55 foot yacht, the Gloria, and after unhappy residential efforts, decided to put our furniture in storage and live aboard. On Duncan’s frequent visits, he used his U.S. Navy seamanship handling the lines, steering the Gloria, etc. On one of our cruises on Lake Washington, he took the dinghy for a bit of rowing taking other guests including Richard Rose and Don Norman. We always had a good crowd on those cruises. We would often go through the locks to Puget Sound and then up to Victoria, Canada, docking at the Empress Hotel. Bob and Duncan took that Canadian trip several times.

At that time I was called to various NSF site visit committees, so Patricia and I would often be on the east coast. We always took time to visit Philadelphia, and would stay in Duncan’s house, which was much like the house that I had owned when I was in Philadelphia. Duncan was always a gracious host—always concerned that we were comfortable. On a later visit, Duncan had moved to a larger house. It was quite elaborate with a bathtub that was almost as large as a swimming pool. Here I saw how community-minded Duncan was, for he always had a basket of oranges outside the gate for neighborhood children.

Around this time Duncan decided to take flying lessons, and ultimately bought a Cessna 172. In December 1965 on a visit all over the east coast, Duncan told us about what had happened on November 9,1965. He had taken off from LaGuardia at 5:20 p.m. and looking back only saw black. Not a single light anywhere. It was the night the whole New York area had a massive “black out.” Fortunately Philadelphia had not lost power, so he landed safely. I don’t think he continued flying much after that, as I don’t recall him discussing planes anymore.

In 1966 Patricia and I decided to leave Seattle. We arrived in New York on Labor Day weekend and spent the year at Columbia. We decided to stay at Columbia. Duncan decided to go to the Princeton Institute, and continued to visit often in New York. However, one fateful day, he visited and told us he was accepting a position at Harvard. He seldom traveled down to New York anymore, and we were spending more time in Europe by then. But, we did get together at a meeting in Syracuse in 1989 to discuss Stevens’s impact on psychology. Duncan told us that he had met someone very special, and that they were planning to be married. He and Carolyn Scheer were married, and subsequently moved to UC Irvine where Duncan spent the rest of his academic life.

I have been visiting with him at Irvine for the past few years. We had planned to do some experiments together this spring. He was one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I miss him.


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