Distinguished psychologist Robert Goy dies at 74

January 26, 1999 By Terry Devitt

Robert W. Goy, administrator, educator and pioneering investigator of the origins of sex differences in behavior, died Jan. 14 from cardiovascular and metabolic complications. He would have been 75 on Jan. 25.

Goy was a professor of psychology and director of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center at UW–Madison from 1971 to 1989.

“Bob’s leadership and accomplishments helped greatly to advance the National Institutes of Health’s Regional Primate Research Centers,” said Center Interim Director and close friend Joseph W. Kemnitz. “He helped launch the careers of many of today’s leading primatologists. He has many colleagues and admirers around the world. He was a very caring person and we will miss him.”

Goy was born in Detroit and received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1947 and University of Chicago in 1953, respectively. He then joined the laboratory of W.C. Young at the University of Kansas.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Goy and Young, with colleagues Charles Phoenix, Arnold Gerall and others, published ground-breaking reports on the effects of prenatal exposure of guinea pigs to elevated levels of androgens, to masculinize both the anatomy and reproductive behavior of genetically female offspring. This indicated that early exposure to sex hormones was a critical factor, along with genes and environmental influences, in molding adult behavior.

In 1963, Young’s laboratory group moved to the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center outside Portland and expanded its studies to include nonhuman primates. Goy had been a visiting scientist at the Wisconsin Center from 1961 to 1963, where he had studied patterns of juvenile behavior of rhesus monkeys with noted primate psychologist Harry Harlow. He then succeeded Harlow as center director in 1971 and continued in this role for 18 years.

During his tenure as director, Goy mentored many graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scientists in behavioral endocrinology and primate development. He served as a frequent consultant to the NIH and various professional societies. He also served as an editor and editorial consultant for several scientific journals and books, and was author or co-author of nearly 200 scientific articles.

Awards Goy received include the Kenneth Craik Award in Physiological Psychology from Cambridge University, and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award by the American Psychological Association, awarded to individuals who demonstrate “outstanding theoretical or empirical contributions to basic or applied research in psychology.”

Goy is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Madison; their three children, Michael, a professor of physiology at the University of North Carolina, Elizabeth (James), an intern in clinical psychology in Portland, Oregon, and Peter (Gwyn), a physician in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He is survived by seven grandchildren; Emily, Frederick, Claire, Perry, Lydia, Robin and Elly. Arrangements for memorial services are pending.

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