July 25, 2007
Humanists across the nation awoke this morning to the sad news that leading humanistic psychologist Albert Ellis had died Tuesday, July 24.
Named by the American Humanist Association as its 1971 Humanist of the Year, Ellis was a leading sexologist, psychologist, psychotherapist, and psychological theorist. His revolutionary views on psychology and sexual liberation, plus his forthright atheism, made him an iconoclastic figure in the 1960s and 70s. In a 1982 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association he was ranked the second most influential psychotherapist of the previous hundred years (with Carl Rogers, the 1964 Humanist of the Year, placing first and Sigmund Freud third).
Considered by many to be the founder of cognitive-behavioral therapies, Ellis pioneered the development of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), a “humanistic, action-oriented approach to emotional growth.” He acknowledged that his method takes a page from the philosophy of the ancient Stoics; it regards how people think about adversity as determining, to a large extent, how they cope with adversity. In the 1990s Ellis wrote on this subject in a regular column in the Humanist magazine.
“As a long-time admirer and personal acquaintance of Dr. Ellis, I am greatly saddened by his death,” said Fred Edwords, director of communications for the American Humanist Association. “But as one who shares his philosophy, I accept the inevitability of this moment and take pleasure in the positive impact his work has had and will continue to have on countless lives.”
Ellis was born on September 27, 1913, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a Reformed Jewish family, which he regarded as the cradle of his atheism, and grew up in New York City. He received his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1947 and began teaching at Rutgers and New York University. In 1959 Ellis established the Albert Ellis Institute (then called the Institute for Rational Living), a non-profit organization whose mission was and remains to promote REBT by training therapists, conducting research, and counseling clients. He personally practiced psychotherapy, marriage and family counseling, and sex therapy for over 60 years and wrote over 600 articles. His 79th book, a textbook on Personality Theory, was completed shortly before his death and will be published posthumously in early 2008.
“The humanist movement has lost an irreplaceable theorist and advocate of humanism,” declared American Humanist Association President Mel Lipman. “He put the humanist philosophy to work in ordinary people’s lives and proved how liberating humanism can be.”
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The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) is the oldest and largest Humanist organization in the nation. The AHA is dedicated to ensuring a voice for those with a positive outlook, based on reason and experience, which embraces all of humanity.