Nathaniel Gage

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Nathaniel Lees Gage (August 1, 1917 – August 17, 2008) was an American educational psychologist who made significant contributions to a scientific understanding of teaching. He conceived and edited the first Handbook of Research on Teaching (Gage, 1963), led the Stanford Center for Research and Development of Teaching, and served as president of the American Educational Research Association. Gage was a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, where he moved in 1962 after 14 years at the University of Illinois. Deborah Stipek, dean of the Stanford School of Education, called Gage a "giant among educational researchers."[1] David C. Berliner, Regents' Professor of Education at Arizona State University, called Gage "the father of the field of research on teaching."[2]


Nathaniel Lees Gewirtz was born in Union City, New Jersey in 1917; his eventual name change is explained below. He attended the City College of New York and the University of Minnesota. At the University of Minnesota, he worked in the laboratory of B.F. Skinner, who later became famous for his contributions to the theory of behaviorism. Gewirtz's duties included making food pellets used to reinforce the behavior of Skinner's laboratory rats.

Gewritz graduated magna cum laude in 1938 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, but was rejected by 10 graduate schools before being admitted to Purdue University. According to David Berliner, the many rejections were due to anti-Semitism.[3] Gewirtz then changed his last name to Gage.

During World War II, Gage spent two years in the Army, where he developed aptitude tests for choosing navigators and radar observers.[1] Gage earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Purdue University in 1947.

Academic career[edit]

Gage taught at Purdue for a year, and at the University of Illinois for 14 years. In 1962, Gage became a professor at Stanford University, where he remained until his death. In 1965, Gage co-founded the Stanford Center for the Research and Development in Teaching (now known as the Center for Educational Research at Stanford), funded with a $4 million federal grant.

Gage edited the Handbook of Research on Teaching (1963), and wrote The Scientific Basis of the Art of Teaching (1978) and Hard Gains in the Soft Sciences (1985).

Upon his retirement from active teaching in 1987, Gage became a professor emeritus, and still worked at his office five days a week. From 1987 through 2008, he wrote at least three books and more than 20 articles. He completed his last book, A Conception of Teaching, shortly before his death.

His many honors include a Guggenheim fellowship (1976-1977), election to the National Academy of Education (1979), the E.L. Thorndike Award for Career Achievement in Educational Psychology (1986), and an honorary doctorate from the Université de Liège in Belgium (2001).

He died of complications of a fall.[1]


Gage married Margaret "Maggie" Burrows Gage in 1942. They had four children: Tom, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Annie. [3]


  1. ^ a b c Sullivan, Kathleen (2008-08-22). "Nathaniel Gage, 'giant among educational researchers,' dead at 91". Stanford News Service. Archived from the original on 2008-09-06. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  2. ^ "A Conception of Teaching". Retrieved 2008-10-06.
  3. ^ a b Berliner, David C. (2004). "Toiling in Pasteur's quadrant: The contributions of N.L. Gage to educational psychology". Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-08. A slightly different version of this article appeared in B.J. Zimmerman and D.H. Schuck (Eds.) (2003) Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions (pp. 391-407) Mahwah, N.J. USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gage, N. L. (1963). The handbook of research on teaching. Chicago, IL, USA: Rand McNally.
Educational offices
Preceded by
Walter W. Cook
President of the

American Educational Research Association

Succeeded by
Lee Cronbach