Lynn Nadel, Ph.D., retires

Oct. 17, 2018

Last May, after 32 years at the University of Arizona, Dr. Lynn Nadel officially retired from the University of Arizona.  In December, we celebrated Lynn’s career with a day-long research meeting here at UA that was attended by the “who’s who” in the field of cognitive neuroscience from around the world - an extraordinary day that reflected the importance of Lynn’s lifelong contribution to science and the special place of honor that he holds in our field.  

Lynn is one of the world’s major contributors to our understanding of the role of the hippocampus in learning, memory, and spatial navigation. Lynn’s first book, written with Nobel laureate John O’Keefe, “The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map” has been described as one of the most influential books in the field of neuroscience published in the past 50 years. The ideas captured in that book changed the field of memory research when it was first published in 1978. In 1997, Lynn changed the field of memory again, publishing a new theory of hippocampal function with his long-time collaborator and friend Morris Moscovitch at the University of Toronto, “Multiple Trace Theory” has generated well over 3,000 publications in the field and has resulted in fundamental changes to our understanding of disorders affecting memory, including amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, Down Syndrome, and epilepsy.  

During a career spanning four decades, Lynn published over 200 papers and an astounding 24 co-authored or edited books. His unique ability to synthesize ideas across domains has led to novel insights into the role of sleep and dreaming in memory consolidation, the neurobiology of PTSD and Down Syndrome, the influence of language on spatial memory, the cognitive neuroscience of emotion, the implications of memory functions for the legal system, and the neurobiology of enduring change in psychotherapy. His contributions have been recognized by many prestigious awards, including the coveted Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Experimental Psychologists. 

Lynn’s legacy goes well beyond research.  No less important is the influence that Lynn has had on the careers of countless young researchers over the years. Throughout his years at the University of Arizona, Lynn mentored graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to outstanding academic careers. As the Head of Psychology, a position he held for 13 years, Lynn hired promising young faculty including Carol Barnes, Bruce McNaughton, Daniel Schacter, and Paul Bloom who went on to be giants in their fields. Because of Lynn’s vision, the University of Arizona became an internationally-recognized center for cognitive neuroscience, a reputation that we continue to enjoy today.

The end of an era, yes, but also the beginning of a bright, exciting new future for Psychology.  We may not know exactly what the future will hold for us, but Lynn’s legacy of excellence in research, collaboration and collegiality, and commitment to education will be carried with us and keep us strong.