Frank Auld: Honouring Neal


Neal was  adviser for my doctoral dissertation.  He worked out a superb design for my experiment; he stood at my elbow, giving support and sagacious advice as I slogged through getting the data; and he critiqued my writing it up, through a number of versions.  (John Conger told me, once, “I thought I was a pretty good writer; I had been an English major in college.  But Neal insisted on doggedly going through every word that I wrote, and on revising it, and then insisting on further revisions, until it was really good.”)


Then I became a colleague on the Yale faculty, as a research assistant (with instructor, then assistant  professor rank), and he became a friend who had young children (as I did), a friend with whom I shared family picnics on occasion.


 After eight and a half years on the Yale faculty, I left and came to Michigan (at Wayne State University).  I next saw Neal in 1982 at a meeting of the British Psychological Society in York, England.  I was just an attender at the meeting — he was a featured speaker, and gave a superb  speech (of the kind we all are so familiar with).  On the Sunday afternoon of the meeting, Neal, his wife, Marian, my wife, and I went together to Yorkminster (the cathedral) to attend a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion.  (It was Palm Sunday.)  I cherish the memory of our freezing in the cold cathedral and enjoying the music, together.


What I learned most of all from Neal Miller, the scientist, was a commitment to honesty and to searching for truth, despite one’s   biases or wishes.  I observed Neal’s passion for testing the theories that he had arrived at, his passion for challenging hypotheses and demonstrating either that they stood the test of that challenge or were wrong.

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