In Memoriam - Richard A. Harshman

January 2008

Richard A. Harshman,one of SAFS original members, died suddenly on January 10, 2008 at a meeting to discuss revisions to the graduate statistics program in the department of psychology at the University of Western Ontario. He was 64. He had suffered from heart problems for many years.

Richard was passionate about academic freedom, and extraordinarily dedicated to SAFS. In addition to writing occasionally for our Newsletter and presenting at our Annual General Meeting, he financially supported SAFS activities; he paid the annual cost of our email account and domain name. On his own initiative, he managed our change from one website provider to another who offered better services at lower costs. He created the software to run the online payment option as well as negotiated the agreement with the bank at terms favorable to us. He created the discussion section of our website. He was also our unofficial photographer at our annual general meetings.

A native Californian, Richard did his undergraduate and graduate work at UCLA, and joined the faculty at Western in 1976, rising through the ranks to full professor. Richard was truly a renaissance man with interests that ranged from the effects of marijuana on cognitive abilities to analysis of individual differences in cerebral organization to the developments of three-player chess. He is most identified with creative and important developments in statistical analysis. An entry for him in Wikipedia notes that he was one of the pioneers in latent semantic analysis. He made two extremely important contributions to psychometrics, dealing first with the analysis of asymmetric square tables and second, in the analysis of multiway tables. His work on PARAFAC (parallel factor analyses) is used in biomedical applications, chemometrics and wireless communications. One external reviewer of his work noted that “ He is one of the most influential quantitative methodologists in the past 30 years…he is a fundamental thinker, not distracted by appearances of currently fashionable approaches. He is always walking a few steps ahead of most of us”. Another noted: “His work is well known...his presence and influence loom large and he basically single handedly started the complex discussions about uniqeness several years prior to receiving his PhD.”

We have lost not only a strong advocate for academic freedom and a major contributor to his research field but also a truly gentle man – one playful with ideas, kind-hearted and generous.He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Hampson, also a psychology professor at Western and a SAFS member, his father and sister.

A graduate scholarship in his name has been established. Donations may be sent to: Foundation Western, Westminster College, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, N6A 3K7, On your behalf, SAFS has made a donation to this fund.