Jack Baird, Dartmouth Class of 1960
Jack received his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth in 1960, where among other activities, he played varsity football. He received his PhD in psychology from Princeton in 1964 where his research centered on the psychophysics of visual perception, an interest that he maintained throughout his career. Jack’s first book, published in 1970, soon after he started as an assistant professor at Dartmouth in 1967, was titled The Psychophysical Analysis of Visual Space. His interests varied considerably over the years, with over 150 papers and 8 books on such topics as visual imagery, pattern recognition, the moon illusion, the design of ideal communities, communication with beings from outer-space. Jack also conducted applied research regarding the scaling of pain and other medical conditions in both children and adults. These latter interests were pursued with his colleagues at the Geisel School of Medicine after Jack retired from the Psychology Department in 2000.
Jack was a founding member of the International Society for Psychophysics in 1985 and collaborated with many of the distinguished members of that organization. At Dartmouth, Jack’s unassuming manner and egalitarian attitude endeared him to his students, especially undergraduates. One of his favorite activities was going for coffee in the afternoon at Lou’s Restaurant, and he often invited his students to join him. Jack was a lively conversationalist, and his attention was encouraging and rewarding to his students.
Jack’s most enduring intellectual legacy is his theory of complementarity in psychophysical judgment. His final book focused on his model of integrating the findings from sensory processes associated with the Weber-Fechner Law and the judgmental outputs associated with Stevens’ Law (Sensation and Judgment: Complementarity Theory of Psychophysics, 1997). These ideas continue to be actively discussed today in trying to understand these often disparate, but as he saw them, complementary processes in human perception and judgment. It is thought that he took the idea of complementarity from Richard Feynman, the theoretical physicist, who spoke about the need for complementarity in describing both the particle and wave characteristics of light. Jack liked to think big but also to seriously consider the details of experimental methods and results. His work combined these two pursuits in a notably complementary fashion.
For those who worked with and knew Jack, there are many memories of this remarkable scientist. Jack’s books are now placed in the Psychology and Brain Science Library for all to enjoy. This award is in recognition of the influence that Jack had on us, which we would like to perpetuate in his memory.
Kenneth Fuld, PhD '76
Clara Gimenez, Jack's beloved wife
Victor Hoskins, AB '79
Kathleen Harder, PhD '96
Greg McHugo, PhD '79
Elliot Noma, AB ' 72
Dan Romer, AB '69
Peter Szilagyi, BS '77
Mark Wagner, PhD '82