Sunday, 8 February 2015

Prof Nick Mackintosh FRS (1935-2015)


So sorry to hear that Nick Mackintosh died today, the news carried in a tweet by Scott Barry Kaufman. I knew about him for ages only by repute, and then in the last few years by email exchanges, and only met him very recently, at Edinburgh when we were invited to the symposium on processing speed last May.

We had previously discussed Hans Eysenck (triggered by the memoir Mike Eysenck wrote about his father), and he agreed that notable psychologists like Hans sometimes had excellent early careers and then far from excellent late careers. (This did not apply to Nick). Nick also felt that when scientists became public figures their science suffered. He was thinking of a notable evolutionist, though only said this in a private exchange, more in regret than criticism. I think I got him to reconsider a letter he had had published in the Sunday Times about Robert Plomin, explaining that Robert had been misquoted, indeed, quotes had been fabricated. We traded views on intelligence research, and he was always kind and helpful, even when we differed considerably in our interpretations.

Only recently I came across a review in which he gently chided me for saying, too generously, that Richard Lynn’s views on sex differences in intelligence had been generally accepted, giving references to show me this was not so. I never got a chance to tell Nick that I accepted I must look at it again, and so delayed replying until I had something to send him, which ended up on my in-tray, and got no further.

It seems only a month or two ago that I shared a taxi with him and Pat Rabbitt, who commended me for getting out of the cab in a “sprightly” manner, to the wry amusement of them both. It seemed a very innocent joke at the time, and probably came about because I had told them I was unclear whether I had been invited to the symposium on ageing as a contributor or as an exemplar. I assumed Nick would be around for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. September 2015 will witness two tributes to Professor Nicholas J. Mackintosh, FRS, who tragically kicked the bucket on eighth February 2015, after a short disease. Educator Mackintosh, who was Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, from 1981 until 2002, was gigantically persuasive in the fields of relative brain research, and insight.

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