Dr. Bower wrote numerous books and scholarly papers, but he was also quick to point out practical applications for his findings. Over the years he was quoted in news articles about vanity license plates, how to remember the name of someone you’ve just met, how New Yorkers’ facial expressions and body language changed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and more.
In a 1973 article in Psychology Today, after discussing how memory can be improved through mnemonics and other techniques, he urged people to put such knowledge to use.
“Our schools,” he wrote, “should teach memory skills just as they teach the skills of reading and writing.”
Gordon Howard Bower was born on Dec. 30, 1932, in Scio, Ohio, to Clyde and Mabelle (Bosart) Bower. Scio was a small village in east-central Ohio near an even smaller village called Bowerston.
“My father and grandfather came from Bowerston, where approximately three-quarters of the people are named Bower,” he said in a 2011 episode of the Association for Psychological Science interview series “Inside the Psychologist’s Studio,” “and the other one-quarter of the people are named Gordon. So I am Gordon Bower, a true son of that region.”
His parents owned a small store, Bower’s Merchandise Mart, and his mother was a substitute elementary-school teacher. Dr. Bower was a fine athlete, particularly in baseball, so much so that the Cleveland Indians subsidized his studies at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in exchange for first rights on a professional baseball contract.
Instead he continued his studies after earning a bachelor’s degree in 1954, securing a fellowship at the University of Minnesota and then enrolling at Yale University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1957 and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1959.