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Harry F. Harlow

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For original and ingenious contributions to comparative and experimental psychology, particularly in the controlled study of learning and motivations, the determinants of animal behavior, and development of affectional behavior.

In 1967, The Beatles debuted the song “All You Need is Love.” That same year, psychologist Harry F. Harlow won the National Medal of Science for his confirmation of the band’s proclamation about the importance of affection.

It’s an idea he felt research had mostly ignored.

“The little we know about love does not transcend simple observation,” he said, “and the little we write about it has been written better by poets and novelists.”

Harlow’s most famous work explored the parent-child bond using monkeys paired with inanimate “surrogate mothers” made from wire or cloth.

The monkeys, separated from their biological parents, overwhelmingly preferred clinging to the cloth mothers, even when the wire mothers dispensed food.

Thus, Harlow developed a key conclusion about relationships, proving that a sense of security – love in its most basic form – trumps all else when it comes to the psychological health of an infant.