History of Psychology 2002

Web Project by Janah Schreiber and Stephen Jones



Sigmund Koch's

Personal Biography

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.

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