Henry David died the last day of December, 2009. With his passing the world lost a great-hearted man. He was a pioneer in his profession, courageous in his research investigations, and a gentle but persistent diplomat in the transnational world of cooperative inquiry. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Henry’s interests centered on the intersecting areas of women’s rights, reproductive decision-making, and abortion — all with demographic and psychological ramifications. At the time, when the culture in the United States and countries abroad was increasingly resistant to scientific inquiry into these tropics, he brought about recognition among social scientists of the importance to society of reproductive decisions. His best known research is the longitudinal Prague Study of 220 children of mothers who were twice denied abortion for the same pregnancy pair matched with children whose mothers accepted their pregnancies. The resulting monograph, Born Unwanted, Developmental Effects of Denied Abortion, written with his Czech colleagues, was published in 1988 by Springer Publishing Press. Using methodology unique in its design, the research operationally defined “unwantedness,” a conclusion based on data collected from the Czech national registration system, detailed individual medical records and extensive interviews. This research demonstrated that, in the aggregate, unwantedness in early pregnancy has a “not negligible” effect on later development, influencing quality of life for those children born of unwanted pregnancies, and casting a shadow on the next generation.
A clinical psychologist, David, was the Founder, in 1972, and Director of the Transnational Family Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. With a focus on reproductive behavior, he developed cooperative research projects and relationships with colleagues from diverse scientific disciplines on five continents. He authored, edited, and co-edited 17 books and over 300 articles. He mentored younger colleagues interested in reproductive behavior and their combined efforts helped alter the prevailing assumption, particularly among clinicians, that abortion was a source of mental health problems in women. His work is studied by college and graduate students, cited in numerous court challenges, and used by elected officials to support liberalization of abortion legislation. He served as Representative of several Divisions to the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives; APA.s representative to the International Union of Psychological Science; and President of the International Council of Psychologists. He was the recipient of many honors which included the 1991 Gold Medal of Charles University, Prague; the 1992 APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology; in 1997 an Honorary Professorship in the Humanities conferred by the Faculty of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo; the 2001 American Psychological Foundation Award for Life Achievement in Psychology in the Public Interest; the 2001 American Public Health Association’s Carl S.Shultz Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2001 Gold Shield of the Population and Community Development Association of Thailand; and the 2008 Christopher Tietze Humanitarian Award of the National Abortion Federation.
One of Henry David’s enduring legacies is the annual meeting of the interdisciplinary Psychosocial Workshop, co-founded in 1972 with Warren B. Miller, as the Abortion Research Workshop. With the approval of Charles Westoff, then President-elect of the Population Association of America the first meeting was held just prior to the PAA and has continued every year since without interruption. Its name changed during four decades yet the Psychosocial Workshop has remained as perhaps the single most important gathering of anthropologists, demographers, economists, psychologists, and sociologists from all over the world who attend the Workshop to report their research results, and to share their knowledge, and their understanding of demographic changes and advances in reproductive health.
Henry David was born on May 28, 1923 in Hagen, Germany, an only child of the fourth generation of Jewish forbearers who had lived in Germany since 1807. In April 1933, because of the rise of the Nazi Party, his father was stripped of the public offices to which he had been elected and after twenty-one years as a lawyer, was no longer permitted to practice his profession. The environment became increasingly hostile to Jews in Germany and Henry would be excluded from further attending the gymnasium for the 1937-38 school year. At his father’s invitation, and with Henry present, a social worker visited the David home. She represented the German Jewish Aid Committee of New York, which offered to place children under the age of fourteen in suitable Jewish homes in the United States able to sponsor their further education. Henry agreed immediately to go to “the land of cowboys and Indians, where dollars grew on trees, and……to continue my education.” Six weeks later, three days before his fourteenth birthday, he sailed for New York, and at sea, changed his name from Heinz Phillipp to Henry Philip, determined to become an American. In New York he was met by his sponsor, a pediatrician from Cincinnati, Ohio. This same doctor provided papers which enabled his parents to leave Germany, make their way to England, receive their US visas, brave submarines as they crossed the Atlantic, and arrive in Cincinnati in October, 1940.
The family reunited, Henry won a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati; at nineteen enlisted in the Air Force; became a naturalized citizen in 1943; served overseas in the Air Force; returned to Cincinnati in 1948 to finish his undergraduate work and to obtain a Master’s; and in 1949 became a Ph.D. Candidate in Clinical Psychology, Columbia University, graduating three years later in 1951. Along the way he benefitted greatly from mentors in his life — in the Air Force, as a student, and in his profession.
In an autobiographical chapter in Light from the Ashes: Social Science Careers of Young Holocaust Refugees and Survivors, Peter Suedfeld, Editor, University of Michigan Press, 2001 Henry wrote, “I have tried to foster transnational cooperation across ideological, cultural, and political barriers and facilitate behavioral research likely to advance reproductive rights and the empowerment of women. The unique opportunities I encountered owe much to circumstances, mentors and grant makers as well as to host country colleagues who were willing to explore an emerging area of study and assume the personal risks our cooperative efforts sometimes entailed. To them and to my family, I express my deepest gratitude….”
Some days after his death, his wife, Tema, wrote this note to colleagues and friends abroad: “If all of you found yourselves in one large room, a few will recognize each other but everyone, seeing him standing among you, will always remember Henry David….”
His Psychosocial Workshop and PAA colleagues honor his memory.
List of Donors
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