Richard C. Atkinson


President's Medal for Excellence (2008)
IUB Winter Commencement
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Michael A. McRobbie
Honorary Degree (1979)
Doctor of Science
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John W. Ryan


Dr. Richard C. Atkinson was born in March 1929. He was educated in his native Illinois, at the University of Chicago (Ph.B.), and at Indiana University where he earned a Ph.D. in 1955.

While a doctoral student in the Psychology Department at Indiana University, Richard Atkinson first began his important and innovative work in the development of mathematical psychology. His achievements in research since that time deal primarily with the analysis of memory and cognition, and in the development of computer-based information systems as they might apply to both psychological theory and practice. His extremely important and substantial research would be claim enough to distinction as an experimental psychologist, but Richard Atkinson's contribution to his field of speciality is even more impressive. He was instrumental in founding the Journal of Mathematical Psychology and served as its editor (1963-1970). His many publications include not only specialized articles, but also a co-authored textbook in mathematical psychology which was the first of its kind, and one of the most widely used textbooks on general psychology.

He taught in the Psychology Department at U.C.L.A. (1957-1961). But the majority of his career was at Stanford University, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Psychology, among numerous other appointments. Professor Atkinson won a Distinguished Research Award from the Social Science Research Committee in 1962 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967. He has received many similar accolades which can best be illustrated by mentioning the three honors conferred on him in 1974. In that one year, Richard Atkinson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, to the National Academy of Sciences, and to the National Academy of Education.

He has served on a variety of editorial boards, as a consultant on research and institute committees, and as director of specially funded seminars and task forces. Moreover, he has served as member of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association (1973-1975), and as Deputy Director and then Director of the National Science Foundation (1975-1980).

He served as chancellor the University of California at San Diego from 1980 to 1985. He lated served as president of the entire University of California system from 1995 to 2003. He is President Emeritus of the University of California.