Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dr. Arthur L. Benton, Neuropsychologist

From The Daily Iowan:

UI mourns death of renowned professor emeritus
Matt Nelson - The Daily Iowan
Issue date: 1/15/07 Section: Metro

Remembered both for his dedication to the mind and to music and noted for his charm and wit, Arthur Benton, one of the founding fathers of neuropsychology and the founder of the UI's neuropsychology laboratory, died of emphysema at the age of 97 in Glenview, Ill., on Dec. 27.

"Today, we have one of the most advanced neuropsychology departments, both clinical and research, in the country," said neurology Professor Robert Rodnitzky, who had worked with the UI professor emeritus of psychology and neurology both as a student and a colleague. "That's his legacy."

Born in New York City, Benton received a bachelor's and master's from Oberlin College, then received his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1935, training as a psychologist at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in the New York Hospital.

In early 1941, Benton volunteered for military service in the U.S. Navy, earning a commission of lieutenant in the medical department. He retired in 1945 at the rank of captain, then accepted a position as an associate professor of psychology at the University of Louisville.

Benton joined the UI in 1948 as a professor and director of graduate training in clinical psychology. Ten years later, he became a professor of psychology and neurology at the UI, and he was instrumental in the creation of the neuropsychology lab. The lab was officially dedicated and renamed the Benton Neuropsychology Laboratory when Benton retired in 1978.

One of Benton's major accomplishments in neuropsychology was his creation of the Benton Visual Retention Test, which measures visual perception and memory by asking subjects to reproduce geometric designs after viewing them briefly. The test is used to diagnose brain damage or measure visuospatial memory.

Benton was also honored as a visiting professor in universities around the world from Israel to Japan, and he continued to publish and participate in research until 2002.

In 1992, Benton received a lifetime achievement award from the American Psychological Foundation for his work in "pioneering clinical studies of brain-behavior relations."

"Despite all his accomplishments and his international renown, he didn't wear it on his sleeve," Rodnitzky said. "He was humble beyond what wasnecessary."

His wife, Rita Benton, was a professor of musicology at the UI, where she was named first head of the Music Library in 1957. Arthur Benton met her in Paris, where they were vacationing separately, in 1939. They were married a month after returning to the United States that same year. After her death in 1980, the UI Music Library was renamed in her honor.

In his later years, Arthur Benton experienced some health problems. Though he had few hobbies in his youth - a symptom of career dedication - he moved to Illinois after a hip injury in 2001 and took up weaving and pottery, which he continued to practice even with failing eyesight.

"He cared about everyone," said daughter Abigail Sivan, a psychologist. "Didn't matter if it was the person who picked up the garbage at the office or a student or a colleague or his boss."

E-mail DI reporter Matt Nelson at:


Arthur Benton: A Life in Perspective

- Met wife Rita Benton in Paris while both were on vacation, and they were married fewer than two months later.

- Founded the Neuropsychology Laboratory at the UI.

- Received an award for life achievements from the American Psychology Foundation.

- Has two sons, Daniel, who works in the UI neonatology department, Ray, who graduated with a degree in law, and a daughter, Abigail Sivan, who holds degrees in psychology.

- Has two grandsons, Ofer and Ori Sivan, who both graduated from the UI with degrees in engineering.

- The Music Library is named after his late wife, who helped found the library and served as head up until her death in 1980.

- Took up pottery and weaving as his eyesight worsened in later years and continued to participate in research until 2002.

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