is retiring after illustrious psychology career
back from giving three talks in Japan on psychiatric genetics,
Irving I. Gottesman had already received several e-mails from
Japanese researchers posing questions and seeking advice.
a thrill to be involved in a worldwide scene, to know that people
are reading our work, he said, noting that his 1991 book
on the usefulness of twin studies for exploring psychiatric disorders
has sold well in Japan.
the peak of an illustrious career, Gottesman, the Sherrell J.
Aston Professor of Psychology,
is retiring this May, but it doesnt sound like hes
slowing down. Hell be busy this summer accepting honors
from a variety of corners.
May 11, Sir Michael Rutter, an international expert on child psychology,
will give a lecture in his honor in Gilmer Hall at 3 p.m.
June, a meeting for Gottesman will be held in Minneapolis with
many of his former students and international collaborators, whose
papers will be published as a festschrift in his honor.
individuals affected with schizophrenia have children?
simple yes or no answer cannot do
justice to this very personal and delicate question that
goes to the heart of personal liberty and civil rights in
a democratic society.
The decision should be based
on an objective evaluation of the affected persons
ability to deal with the emotional stress and tension-related
risks of relapse associated with the demands of parenting.
Individual [genetic] counseling is necessary in each case.
from a pamphlet entitled, Schizophrenia & Genetic
Risks, by Irving I. Gottesman and Stephen O. Moldin
of the NIMH
in August, the American Psychological Association will be awarding
him its Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award. Past winners
have included Jean Piaget, B.F. Skinner and former U.Va. professor
Sherrell J. Aston has endowed an annual lecture series in Gottesmans
came to U.Va. in 1985 to establish a clinical psychology training
program that would be more research-oriented than the existing
one in the Curry School.
Trumbetta, a former student now teaching at Vassar, said she was
initially drawn to Gottesmans lab by the intellectual
freedom he encourages.
Irvs playful irreverance toward
[academic boundaries] creates a climate in which students also
feel free to play with ideas, to question even their most cherished
a researcher, Gottesmans intellectual independence seems
to have put him a step ahead of the curve. In the early 1960s,
the heyday of Freudianism, he became interested in genetics. Attention
to and funding for cross-disciplinary approaches
to psychology soon burgeoned.
first extensive study of the genetics of schizophrenia used a
twin register that had been in place for 15 years. By comparing
identical twins, who share the same genetic profile, and fraternal
ones, whose genes differ, he found that genes were undeniably
a determining factor in schizophrenia.
even when you study identical twins where one has schizophrenia,
the other develops it in only 50 percent of the cases, said
Gottesman, who, at 70, exudes the energy of a much younger person.
That leaves room for a wide range of non-genetic factors
such as auto accidents, divorce, exposure to heavy metals or street
drugs. Contrary to popular belief, the role played by family
environment turns out to be much less important sthan anyone would
solid core in predisposing factors for me remains the genotype,
but thats never enough to explain the individual case,
he said. The models we use are those for diabetes and coronary
artery disease these are complex diseases with an obvious
role for genetic predisposing factors and lifestyle factors.
work, published in 18 books, 179 journal articles, 75 book chapters,
and 23 book reviews, has constituted, in Trumbettas words,
formidable contributions to the fields of psychopathology
and genetics research, earning him a long list of prestigious
has also embraced the role of citizen-scientist, researching and
writing about the ideological abuses of genetic research in Nazi
Germany and, last year, serving as an expert witness in a Chinese
human rights case in which three men had been denied employment
in the Department of Public Safety because of an outdated law
that cited having a schizophrenic parent as a legitimate reason.
testified that a genetically influenced disease isnt a genetically
determined one, he said, adding that the court ruled in
the mens favor, though the law hasnt been changed.
He will return to testify in a similar case later this year.
Gottesmans retirement plans include active grandfathering.
He and his wife Carol will be moving to Minneapolis this summer,
where one of their two sons and his four-year-old son live.
expects to continue consulting and doing research, working one
day a week in the University of Minnesotas psychology department,
as well as volunteering once a month at the Minnesota Veterans
Administration. He also has three books in the works.
tried, but I havent been able to actually clear my desk,
he said. But as least my calendar is not absolutely filled,
as it has typically been in the past.