Benjamin Lindsley, co-founder of UCLA's Brain Research
Institute, was a pioneer in the study of human brain waves,
behavior and information processing.
a professor of psychology, physiology and psychiatry at
UCLA and member of the National Academy of Sciences, used
an interdisciplinary approach in brain-behavior research
to provide major contributions to the understanding of
normal and abnormal functioning of the brain during sleep-wakefulness,
perception, emotion, learning and development.
Tobin, director of the UCLA Brain Research Institute,
said, "Don Lindsley's role at UCLA and in international
neuroscience in some ways resembled that of the brainstem
activating systems, whose understanding he did so much
to promote. Don was one of those rare people who continually
activated the people around him - students, post-doctoral
scholars, and colleagues - focusing attention on what
was important, exciting and relevant to the future."
was one of the first scientists to use the newly discovered
technique of electroencephalography, or "EEG,"
to record electrical brain activity. During his postdoctoral
studies with Alexander Forbes and Hallowell Davis at Harvard
University at the height of the Depression (1933-35),
Lindsley himself served as the subject for the premier
public demonstration of EEG to the American medical community.
He later carried out the initial investigations of changes
in the EEG in the developing brain.
addition to his EEG research, Lindsley was active in developing
measures of human sensory processing that used computer-averaged
evoked potentials to assess the influence of attentional
processes on rapid electrical changes in the brain produced
by significant visual effects.
landmark papers published in 1949-50 with Horace Magoun
at Northwestern University, Lindsley helped define the
brainstem activating systems that support wakefulness
and arousal. He followed this research with significant
contributions to knowledge about brain mechanisms underlying
emotion and attention.
was born in Brownhelm, Ohio, and attended nearby Wittenberg
College. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology at the University
of Iowa with Edward Lee Travis. His uncompromising dedication
was evident from the start. He perfected his experimental
technique by impaling themuscle of his own leg with needle-type
electrodes to record the electrical activity of muscles
and nerves before trying the same techniques on research
early activities included a trip to Europe in 1931, with
visits to various scientific laboratories. A fan of the
great jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, Lindsley paid his
passage on a ship from the Holland-America Line by playing
cornet (trumpet) in a jazz band he formed called "The
Four Aces," with whom he toured much of England and
appointments in pediatrics at Western Reserve Medical
School in Cleveland, Ohio, (1935-38); psychology at Brown
University in Providence, R.I., (1938-46); and neurophysiology
at Bradley Hospital in Providence (1938-46), Lindsley
became professor of psychology at Northwestern University
who moved from Chicago, recruited Lindsley to UCLA's
new medical school in 1951. With fellow professor Charles
"Tom" Sawyer, they commuted three times a week
along the old Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica
to makeshift labs at the Long Beach Veterans Administration
campus until the medical and health sciences research
center was built in Westwood. This trio joined with John
Douglas French and Theodore Bullock to found UCLA's world-renowned
Brain Research Institute in 1959.
the same year, Lindsley was awarded the Distinguished
Scientific Award from the American Psychological Association
for his research on the "psychological variables
associated with the reticular activating system ... based
on interdisciplinary research in which he played an important
part. Dr. Lindsley has shown great skill not only in both
neurophysiology and in psychology, but also in his unusual
insight into the relationships between these two areas."
In 1960, while he chaired the Department of Psychology,
Lindsley was selected by his peers and delivered the UCLA
Faculty Research Lecture on "Brain Development and
Behavior." His retirement in 1977 was celebrated
by a major conference on "Neurophysiology and Psychology:
Basic Mechanisms and Clinical Applications." Later
accolades included the Society for Neuroscience's prestigious
Ralph Gerard Prize for Distinguished Contributions to
Neuroscience in 1988.
always trained a participant-observer's eye on documenting
the history of his discipline and its practitioners. His
film, "Psychologists Here, There, and Everywhere,"
is a moving-picture record of hundreds of scientists -
ordinary as well as eminent - in action at the annual
professional meetings of the American Psychological Association
from 1946-57. With his subsequent voice-added anecdotes,
it is an often-requested classic at the University of
Akron's Archives of American Psychology.
recently donated his lifelong accumulation of papers,
letters and meticulously identified photographs to UCLA's
Neuroscience History Archives.
was elected to the Society for Experimental Psychologists
(1942), the National Academy of Sciences (1952), and the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1965). Among the
numerous professional societies, committees and editorial
boards to which he belonged, Lindsley was a charter member
of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO)
and the Society for Neuroscience, and he served as president
of Division 6 (Physiological and Comparative Psychology)of
the American Psychological Association (1947) and the
American Electroencephalographic Society (1964-65).
Lindsley Lab at UCLA hosted 84 postdoctoral fellows and
visiting scientists from more than 25 countries. Lindsley
edited a series of translations of previously inaccessible
works by Russian neurophysiologists, thus shepherding
some of the first major exchanges of information on brain
electrophysiology between the Soviet Union and the United
More than anything in his career, including nearly 250
scientific papers, Lindsley took great pride in the 48
Ph.D. aspirants who completed their doctorates under his
guidance and mentorship. He continued voluminous typewritten
correspondence with most of them as he earnestly followed
and advised them in their careers.
feeling was mutual, as then UCLA Brain Research Institute
Director Carmine Clemente noted in 1978: "I have
been touched by Don Lindsley's humane approach to his
students, by the friendly twinkle in his eye and by his
uplifting smile," Clemente said. "Somehow I
think that the warm regard held for him by his students
means more to him than the honors he has achieved through
his work - but he, indeed, has both."
commitment to the recognition and advancement of young
scientists was memorialized by Albert and Ellen Grass,
EEGers whom he had known and with whom he collaborated
in the development of electrophysiology since 1935. The
Society for Neuroscience, through the support of the Grass
Foundation, awards the Donald B. Lindsley Prize each year
to the author of the most outstanding Ph.D. thesis in
the area of behavioral neuroscience. The fruits of this
lasting tribute have been presented to 26 recipients since
Akil, president of the Society for Neuroscience and Gardner
C. Quarton Distinguished Professor of Neurosciences at
the University of Michigan, recalls: "I had the great
honor of meeting Professor Lindsley when I was a graduate
student at UCLA. Having studied his work and being in
awe of him, I was surprised by his kindness to a mere
student. I then learned of his deep commitment to his
students and younger colleagues. It is therefore extremely
apt that the Society for Neuroscience honors one of its
charter members and a giant in the field of brain research
by awarding the Donald B. Lindsley Prize, which recognizes
scientific talent among young investigators. The Society
for Neuroscience mourns the passing of a brilliant scientist
and a great man, and will continue to celebrate his spirit
through the annual Lindsley Prize."
B. Lindsley died of natural causes
on Thursday, June 19, 2003, in Santa Monica. He was 95.