Michael A. Wallach
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Michael A. Wallach

April 8, 1933 - January 16, 2020

Durham

Michael A. Wallach, noted research psychologist, died January 16, 2020. He was 86.

Born in Manhattan, NY, he grew up in Queens and graduated from the Columbia Grammar School. He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with highest honors from Swarthmore College in 1954, and a doctorate in psychology from Harvard in 1958. After a year at Harvard as instructor and three years as assistant professor of psychology at MIT, he came to Duke as associate professor of psychology in 1962. He was named full professor in 1966, spent 1972-1973 as William S. Gray Professor at the University of Chicago, and retired from Duke as professor emeritus of psychological and brain sciences in 2004.

Wallach, whose work stood out for its breadth and depth, made seminal contributions to topics as diverse as creativity in childhood, the limits of intelligence testing, effects of groups on decision-making, and interventions for people with serious mental disorders. A gifted teacher and mentor, he was a deep thinker who always sought answers to big questions in psychology, especially ones related to philosophy, ethics, and research design.

Wallach served as series editor of the SUNY Series on Alternatives in Psychology, State University of New York Press, from 1989 to 2008, and as editor of the Journal of Personality from 1963 to 1972. He was a Fellow in the American Psychological Association's divisions of general psychology, experimental psychology, personality and social psychology, psychology of aesthetics, creativity and the arts, and educational psychology. He authored or co-authored nine books and more than 120 papers and articles.

In childhood, Wallach studied piano with Heida Hermanns until 1950. After a gap of some 50 years, during which he enjoyed playing chamber music on the harpsichord with friends, he returned to serious piano work, studying with Pei-Fen Liu of Durham from 2003 until his death, and giving concerts at the Nelson Music Room and in local retirement communities. A lifelong artist himself, he deeply enjoyed music, arts, and film in Durham and Chapel Hill, and catching up with friends and acquaintances while running errands on Ninth Street.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years and frequent co-author, Lise Wallach; daughter, Rachel; grandson, Jonas; and numerous friends in Durham and beyond.

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Published in The News and Observer & Herald Sun on Jan. 23, 2020.
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January 23, 2020
Michael was a colleague from whom we learned so much. His steadfast integrity and his broad-ranging knowledge and scholarship were an inspiration. Our warmest condolences to Lisa and Rachel.
Susan Roth and Phil Costanzo
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