Irving E. Sigel (1922 – 2006)

Irving E. Sigel (1922-2006) a pioneer in the study of children’s intellectual development, died Sunday February 26th, 2006 in Princeton, N.J., as a result of complications associated with heart disease. Irv, as he was affectionately known by generations of students and colleagues, was 84.

An internationally known developmental scholar, Dr. Sigel was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. He attended Clark University where he majored in Psychology and received a B.A. in 1943. His graduate training was accomplished at the University of Chicago where he received a Ph.D. in 1951 in Human Development. His teaching career began at Smith College in Northampton, MA.  This was followed by posts at several other institutions before he was appointed as the director of research at Merrill Palmer Institute in Detroit. From 1973 until his retirement in 1990 he was a distinguished research scientist at ETS in Princeton, New Jersey.

Irv was an active member of the Jean Piaget Society serving as a board member in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as serving as the sixth President of the Society in the mid-1970s. In 2002, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society. His work in the area of cognitive development is well known, focusing on children’s capacity for symbolic thought; he was especially concerned with processes involved in cognitive development. In recent years, he was particularly interested in the role of parent-child relationships and the impact such relationships have on symbolic and representational thought development. Irv was well ahead of his time in grasping the importance of linking basic research with real world issues. As founding editor of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and editor of the companion book series Advances in Applied Developmental Psychology, he lived out his longstanding commitment to promoting theoretically driven research that also engaged practical problems.  For all of these accomplishments, for his wit and mentorship, and for serving as a role-model for so many, we all owe him a collective debt of gratitude. He left his field of developmental psychology in a much better place than he found it. Irv is survived by his wife Dr. Roberta Sigel, two sons and four grandchildren. A private funeral was held on March 1 and ETS is planning a private memorial service in April.