Monte Bernard Shapiro was born May 31 1912. He was one of a number of gifted psychologists who emigrated to Britain from southern Africa before the second world war. After completing psychology degrees at Rhodes University, he went to Cambridge.
At the outbreak of the war, Shapiro, who had joined the Communist Party in the 1930s, volunteered for aircrew duties and was assigned as a navigator/bomb aimer. He was shot down over the Netherlands in 1943 and severely injured an arm, leading to lifelong disability.
In the late 1940s, Shapiro joined the Institute of Psychiatry and Maudsley hospital. He was convinced that psychological treatments should be based on scientific principles.
The marriage of theory, and the application of experimental methods to single cases, was again apparent in Shapiro’s second contribution to clinical psychology. From 1951 onwards, he published a series of papers applying an experimental method to diagnostic problems, which, in many ways, foreshadowed developments in the field of neuropsychology 25 years later.
Shapiro’s third significant contribution came with the extension of single-case methods into problems where the subjective report of the patient, rather than performance on a cognitive test, was the focus of inquiry. He recognised the limitations in the available measures and devised a personal questionnaire method for scaling an individual’s self-reported symptoms.
In the clinic, Shapiro was a man of infinite patience: tolerant, empathic and non-judgmental. To students, he was both encouraging and demanding. If an answer to a question was not apparent, one would be briefed to research the literature before the next clinical supervision. This then became the basis for an exhaustive inquiry into the validity of one’s conclusions and the merits of the literature.
Shapiro left the Communist party in 1956 after Krushchev’s denunciation of Stalin.
Shapiro was never awarded a professorship, although many believed he merited one. He died on April 29th 2000.
See entry for Jean Shapiro, his wife.
Source: Guardian Tuesday May 2, 2000
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