Bronfenbrenner, Urie 1917–2005

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Bronfenbrenner, Urie 1917–2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 29, 1917, in Moscow, Russia; died of complications from diabetes, September 25, 2005, in Ithaca, NY. Psychologist, educator, and author. Bronfenbrenner was a longtime professor of psychology and child development at Cornell University whose work on a federal panel led to the establishment of the national Head Start program. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was just six years old, and was greatly influenced by his father, who worked at a mental institution in New York. The elder Bronfenbrenner, a neuropathologist, realized that many children at the facility were actually normal and had been placed there by accident; he worked hard and unsuccessfully for their release, seeing the children's intelligence scores drop dramatically in the process. From this, Bronfenbrenner was impressed by the influence of early childhood development opportunities and environment on intelligence. He earned a B.A. from Cornell University in 1938, a master's degree in education from Harvard University in 1940, and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan in 1942. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Army as a psychologist during World War II. After the war he worked briefly for a hospital in Oklahoma and then for the Veterans' Administration in Washington, DC, before joining the Cornell faculty in 1948. He remained at Cornell for more than fifty years as a professor of psychology. Based on his studies of the importance of child-parent interaction as the key to developing intelligence, social skills, and good mental health, Bronfenbrenner was called to testify as an expert on this matter before Congress in 1964. At the time, President Lyndon Johnson was advocating his war against poverty, and Bronfenbrenner felt it was important to include children in the formula. The next year, he worked with two other developmental psychologists on a committee that became the basis for Head Start. This program emphasizes the importance of social interaction with family and others in the healthy development of children; it is a program that many have credited with helping reduce social problems among children and teens, especially among poor families. In addition to advocating the importance of family interactions for children, Bronfenbrenner more recently criticized the rise of materialism in the United States that, he asserted, led to the neglect of children. Parents, he said, spend too much time at work earning money for material things, rather than spending time with their children. The director of the ecology of human development program for the Foundation for Child Development from 1974 to 1984, Bronfenbrenner was the author of several books, including Two Worlds of Childhood: U.S. and USSR (1970), Is Early Intervention Effective? (1974), and The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design (1979).



Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2005, p. B10.

New York Times, September 27, 2005, p. A25.

Washington Post, September 27, 2005, p. B6.

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Bronfenbrenner, Urie 1917–2005

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