Price, Bronson, 1905-1978.

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Price, Bronson, 1905-1978.

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Price, Bronson, 1905-1978.


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Biographical History

Bronson Price was a geneticist, psychologist, and statistician.

From the description of Papers, 1934-1976. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122380116

Although he spent the majority of his professional career as a statistician, Bronson Price was trained as a psychologist, and he made his most important scientific contributions as a geneticist. While working on his doctorate under Lewis Terman at Stanford, Price became interested in the statistical and genetical issues surrounding the study of twins, beginning what would become a long-term interest in delineating the "primary biases" in those studies. Upon completing his degree in 1934, he won a fellowship to pursue post-doctoral work with Aleksandr R. Luria at the Medico-Biological Institute in Moscow, indulging his interest in the social implications (and applications) of his scientific work. A Depression-era progressive, Price was attracted to the Soviet Union partly out of political curiosity -- his Stanford friend Robert C. Challman jokingly accused him of being a "beret boy" (December 17, 1934) -- but also out of what he perceived to be scientific opportunity in the "social experimentation" taking place there. His project was designed to assess R. A. Fisher's theory of the "social promotion of infertility," in which Fisher had argued that infertility and ability are mated in capitalist society, heightening the differential birthrate. Although Price's Soviet research resulted in few publications, his experience did produce one tangible result: while in Moscow, Price grew close to another American expatriate, the geneticist, Herman J. Muller, with whom he shared a common set of intellectual concerns and what would become a long personal friendship.

Upon his return to the States, Price accepted a position in the Department of Psychology at Ohio State, although it took special pleading by Terman to convince the administration that Price was not a Communist sympathizer. Despite this intervention, suspicions about Price's political motives welled up periodically during the next five years, never quite threatening his employment, but often forcing him to pit his sympathetic reading of Soviet life between the extremes of Bolshevik apologists and anti-Communist ideologues, always arguing that fascism was the greater threat. Although not a Communist himself, Price concluded in 1938 that "the USSR stands high when judged against a reasonable set of non-selective criteria" and that "Soviet socialism now is the soundest economically and the solidest psychologically of the world states" (to Lewis Terman, January 5, 1938).

The onset of the Second World War presented a professional watershed. Early in 1941, Price took leave from Ohio State to join the impending war effort, and was assigned first to the personnel office of the War Department and later in the Office of War Information, where he worked primarily as an interpreter of broadcasts from Eastern Europe. Rather than return to academia after the war, however, he remained in the government service as an analyst with the National Office of Vital Statistics, and as a statistician with the Children's Bureau and the Office of Education, in succession. Although his core research interests shifted away from genetics, his engagement with the field, and twin studies in particular, never waned. His efforts in research were directed largely toward the assessment of biases in twin studies, a topic on which he spoke at the 8th International Congress of Genetics in Stockholm, 1948, and which resulted in his best know paper, "Primary biases in twin studies."

Price was a founding member of the American Society of Human Genetics in 1948 and, at the urging of Hermann Muller, became a charter member of the Foundation for Germinal Choice in 1964. He died in 1978, survived by his wife, Helen.

From the guide to the Bronson Price Papers, 1926-1978, (American Philosophical Society)



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Radiation--Physiological effect



Genetics--Soviet Union



Psychology--Study and teaching

Communists--United States



Behavior genetics

Intelligence tests


Involuntary sterilization

Sterilization (Birth control)

Human genetics





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Soviet Union

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United States

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