Sigmund Koch was born on April 18, 1917. He grew up in New York
City and attended New York University for his undergraduate career.
As a child and teenager he had a preference for literature and
won awards for his poetry in high school. During his college career
he switched interests from literature to philosophy.
After receiving his BA in philosophy and psychology, Koch went
on to attend the University of Iowa and later Duke University.
He met many distinguished scholars at each of these schools, including
Kurt Lewin and Kenneth Spence. He received a master's degree from
University of Iowa in 1939 and a PhD in psychology from Duke University
in 1942. After receiving his PhD from Duke he stayed on to become
a full time faculty member and remained there for 22 years.
In 1964 Koch left Duke University to move back to New York City
to take on the position of director of the Ford Foundation's Program
in the Humanities and Arts. In 1978 he was elected president of
the APA in both general psychology and philosophical psychology.
Koch was part of an intellectual family. He had two sisters,
Adrienne and Vivienne, both of whom were highly regarded in their
respective fields of history and literature. Throughout his later
life, Koch was known for his critical analysis of psychology as
a discipline and for his dry sense of humor.
During the years 1959-1963 Koch published several works, including
the extremely popular Psychology: A Study of Science. Later in
his career, Koch criticized many of the same theories and philosophies
he illustrated in his early work in an attempt to draw psychology
closer to the humanities and farther away from impersonal and
sterile conclusions. He was on a quest for meaning, coining the
term of 'ameaningful' to describe results based on formula and
strategy without the use of subjective thinking.
Later in his life Koch also compiled hours of videotape interviews
of artists from many disciplines. He was researching the drive
to create things. He found that a commonality between artists
of every genre was the loss of self to the creation urge. He believed
this to be a heightened mental state. This was one of his final
projects. A partial collection of Koch's work throughout his lifetime
can be seen on the contributions page.
Sigmund Koch died on the 10th of August 1996. An APA conference
was being held in Toronto during the time of his death and a spontaneous
memorial service occurred when the news arrived. A son, daughter,
and two grandchildren survived him.