Bill Tucker Remembrance
It was some three decades ago that I happened to attend an APA symposium on psychology and race and, for the first time, heard a speaker link a number of prominent researchers to the efforts of hard-core racists and neo-Nazis. Many in the audience were visibly disturbed at what they perceived as this breach of professional etiquette, in which academics are not supposed to notice the complicity of their colleagues in providing support for oppressive social policies, but the speaker had made such a factually detailed, persuasive argument that their response was reduced largely to sputtering, "Oh, c'mon, Jerry, you can't really mean to imply that."
Well, Jerry did. Although he did not mince words, Jerry's confrontational style was always informed by meticulous analysis. In his famous article on Jensenism, for example, Jerry titled one section "The Nadir of Scurrility," but after reading the subsequent bill of particulars, it was hard to disagree.
But Jerry did much more than find fault with others' work. With well over 100 scientific publications in professional journals and collections, he was one of the seminal figures in the development of behavior genetics and an internationally recognized expert in the field.
Thus his critique of "hereditarian" research could not be dismissed as the work of an outsider, unfamiliar with the technicalities of this specialized discipline.
Jerry was the ultimate example of a distinguished researcher who was also acutely aware of a scientist's social responsibility. He is one of the few persons whose work has influenced the thinking in both C.P. Snow's two cultures, and we are all the better for his existence.
Professor of Psychology
June 12, 2008