On This Day … 16 July

People (Births)

  • 1902 – Alexander Luria, Russian psychologist and physician (d. 1977).
  • 1923 – Chris Argyris, American psychologist, theorist, and academic (d. 2013).

Alexander Luria

Alexander Romanovich Luria (Russian: Алекса́ндр Рома́нович Лу́рия; 16 July 1902 to 14 August 1977) was a Soviet Russian neuropsychologist, often credited as a father of modern neuropsychological assessment. He developed an extensive and original battery of neuropsychological tests during his clinical work with brain-injured victims of World War II, which are still used in various forms. He made an in-depth analysis of the functioning of various brain regions and integrative processes of the brain in general. Luria’s magnum opus, Higher Cortical Functions in Man (1962), is a much-used psychological textbook which has been translated into many languages and which he supplemented with The Working Brain in 1973.

It is less known that Luria’s main interests, before the war, were in the field of psycho-semantics (that is, research into how people attribute meaning to words and instructions). He became famous for his studies of low-educated populations in the south of the Soviet Union showing that they use different categorisation than the educated world (determined by functionality of their tools). He was one of the founders of Cultural-Historical Psychology, and a leader of the Vygotsky Circle, also known as “Vygotsky-Luria Circle”. Apart from his work with Vygotsky, Luria is widely known for two extraordinary psychological case studies: The Mind of a Mnemonist, about Solomon Shereshevsky, who had highly advanced memory; and The Man with a Shattered World, about Lev Zasetsky, a man with a severe traumatic brain injury.

During his career Luria worked in a wide range of scientific fields at such institutions as the Academy of Communist Education (1920-1930s), Experimental Defectological Institute (1920-1930s, 1950-1960s, both in Moscow), Ukrainian Psychoneurological Academy (Kharkiv, early 1930s), All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine, and the Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery (late 1930s). A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Luria as the 69th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris (16 July 1923 to 16 November 2013) was an American (of Greek ancestry) business theorist and professor emeritus at Harvard Business School. Argyris, like Richard Beckhard, Edgar Schein and Warren Bennis, is known as a co-founder of organisation development, and known for seminal work on learning organisations.

In World War II he served in the US Army Signal Corps. After his service he studied psychology at Clark University, where he met Kurt Lewin. He obtained his MA in 1947, and joined the Kansas University, where he obtained his MSc in Psychology and Economics in 1949. In 1951 received his PhD from Cornell University, with a thesis under the supervision of William F. Whyte on organisational behaviour.

In 1951 Argyris started his academic career at Yale University as part of the Yale Labour and Management Centre where he worked under its director and an early influence, E. Wight Bakke. At Yale he subsequently became appointed Professor of Management science. In 1971 he moved to Harvard University, where he was Professor of Education and Organisational Behaviour, until his retirement. Argyris was active as director of the consulting firm Monitor in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Argyris received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Toronto in 2006 and a Doctor of Science award from Yale University in 2011.

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