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Groundbreaking Psychologist Jay Rosenblatt Dies at 90; Pioneered Research in Maternal Behavior, Learning Processes

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Dr. Jay S. Rosenblatt, credited as one of the first researchers to reveal that learning takes place within the first few days of life in mammals, died on Feb. 15 at the age of 90.  Rosenblatt, an emeritus professor at Rutgers University-Newark, was once described as the “father of mothering.” He was credited with helping to establish the theoretical framework for the study of maternal behavior in animals and was one of the earliest researchers to uncover the hormonal basis for maternal behavior.  He retired from Rutgers in 2005 as the Daniel S. Lehrman Professor of Psychobiology. He also served as dean of the Graduate School-Newark, and as director of the former Institute of Animal Behavior over his 46-year career.

Despite retirement, he worked on campus until 2012.  Rosenblatt’s professional interests ranged from animal behavior; the hormonal, neural, and environmental control of reproductive behavior, and clinical psychology and psychoanalysis, states Harold I. Siegel, chair of the RU-N psychology department.

According to Siegel, the theoretical and experimental frameworks that Rosenblatt established in the field of mammalian parental behavior “still guide much of the research” today.  

A resident of Hackensack, N.J., Rosenblatt is survived by his wife, Pat; a  daughter, Nina; and a son, Daniel.

Services will be held Friday, 1:30, Plaza Memorial Chapel, 91st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in New York City.

The Bronx native was the recipient of many awards and honors during his lifetime, including the Senior Investigator Award from the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology and the Daniel S. Lehrman Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.  The scholarly journal Developmental Psychobiology paid him a special and unusual honor: it produced a special issue in January 2007 in honor of Rosenblatt’s contributions to the study of animal behavior.
 
However, Rosenblatt never intended to go into research; his first interest was painting, which he continued to pursue throughout the course of his career.  After serving in the Army during World War II, Rosenblatt  went to New York University aiming to earn a degree in the psychology of art, combining both his interest in art and human behavior.  That changed when he met animal behaviorist T.C. Schneirla at NYU, who convinced him that studying animal behavior would provide him with greater insight into human behavior.

Rosenblatt maintained a private practice and continued painting while teaching and doing research at Rutgers University-Newark. “When you’re doing research, you are dealing with group phenomena, and I felt I also needed contact with individual phenomena,” he says. “Painting, researching and psychoanalysis, they all expressed and satisfied different things in me.”    

Rosenblatt authored more than 160 papers and chapters in leading scientific publications and served as editor for more than a decade of the series Advances in the Study of Behavior.

He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from Goteborg University, Sweden, and the National University of Education at a Distance, Madrid.

Media contact: Carla Capizzi, capizzi@rutgers.edu