George F. Mahl

george mahl
North Haven - George F. Mahl, age 88, of 106 Bayard Ave. died March 11, 2006 at home. He was Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Psychology at Yale University. Professor Mahl was born November 27, 1917 in Akron, Ohio. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1939, where he also earned his Master's degree in Psychology in 1941. His graduate work in psychology at Yale University was interrupted by his enlistment and four years of military service during World War II. He received his Ph.D. in 1948. He later completed training in psychoanalysis at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis, from which he graduated in 1962. Professor Mahl was a member of Yale's faculty from 1947 to his retirement in 1988. He held joint appointments there in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, his primary appointment being in Psychiatry. The Yale Psychiatric Alumni Association presented him its Distinguished Service Award in 1995. He also served on the faculty of the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis for 25 years, and was its President in 1972-74. His major teaching at both institutions concerned the evolution of Sigmund Freud's work. The Western New England Psychoanalytic Society awarded him its Founders Teaching Prize in 2002. In 1963-64 he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto, California. He was also awarded fellowships and grants by the Foundation's Fund for Research in Psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health. His research ranged from physiological psychology to clinical research in the process of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to Freud's writings. He was the author or co-author of over 50 papers and 3 books, of which he was usually the sole author. His writings were reprinted by others, some being translated into German, Italian and Japanese. At the outset of his career, Professor Mahl established himself as one of the early experimentalists in psychosomatic medicine by virtue of his research on the relationship between fear and gastric secretion. He discovered that chronic, but not acute, fear increased hydrochloric acid secretion in dogs, monkeys, and humans. His major research contribution, however, dealt with the expression of emotions and thought in speech and body movements, primarily in psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic interviews. He was generally credited with being the first to systematically investigate everyday disturbances of speech. Most of that research focused on the relationship of transitory anxiety and such speech disruptions. A selection of his papers about speech and body movements was assembled in his book, "Explorations in Nonverbal and Vocal Behavior, published in 1987. Late in life he learned that his research on speech brought his international recognition as one of the pioneers in establishing a new area of linguistic research now called dysfluencies. He continued to write scholarly articles following his retirement. And he greatly enjoyed the extension of his interests and activities into new areas. His fishing expanded to include fly fishing. He delivered food parcels to the needy for Fish of New Haven, and he became a dedicated tutor of English as a second language for Literacy Volunteers. His serious reading widened to cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, slavery and the Constitution, in which areas he wrote occasional essays. In his mid 80's he began learning to sing. As a result he compiled several song medleys which he frequently presented at student recitals at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven. His beloved wife of over 50 years, Martha, died in 2001. He is survived by his daughter Barbara Mahl of Roanoke, Virginia, and three grandchildren. You have just read the obituary he prepared shortly before his death. Later he added the biblical quotation "Vanities of vanities! All is vanity .. a generation goes, another generation comes but the earth remains forever.the people of long ago are not remembered , nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.there is a time to be born and a time to die." As he made his final exit, he ended with "I have had my turn." Memorial service will be Sunday March 19, at 1 pm at BEECHER & BENNETT 2300 WHITNEY AVE, HAMDEN. Memorial contributions may be made to the Development Fund of the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis, 255 Bradley Street, New Haven, CT 06510, or the Annual Alumni Fund, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, or the Alumni Fund, Yale Graduate School.

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Memories Timeline


  1. Dear Barbara and family, I considered George a very dear and special friend, made through our mutual friends Herta and Fritz Redlich. Herta was my voice teacher. I would love to be able to speak with you. Carmen has my contact information and can give it to you. I have written a longer remembrance that I will email to Carmen. I hope someone perhaps can read it for me, as I will be in Maine this weekend and regret very much that I cannot be at the service. I am thinking of you and your family very much at this difficult time. In deepest sympathy, Sally Sanford

  2. Dear Barbara, I am the staff person at the Koerner Emeritus Center at Yale and had the pleasure of getting to know your father during the last few years. I remember he brought you to see the Center when you came to visit. George was such a kind and caring man and I am sure he was a wonderful dad. I just wanted to share a tidbit from our last conversation. George called here and when I mentioned that we missed seeing him at our recent events, he said he was not able to drive at night. Thinking I was being helpful, I offered to send taxis for him. Only then did he laugh and admit that was a cover story and he really didn’t want to leave the dog home alone. Please accept my condolences on your great loss. Sincerely, Pat Dallai

  3. Dr. Mahl was a .Mentor. in the true sense of the word. He offered such inspiring knowledge and intriguing, fascinating opportunities for understanding human behavior, especially the nonverbal (an immediate focus of interest which has lasted to the present time). As advisor he shared his knowledge and expertise and clearly was developing ways of thinking and studying human behavior which made possible for him to write his book long after our work together. Dr. Mahl seems to have lived his span to the fullest and his impact on others is only hinted at by the way he dealt with his students. Thank you always Dr. Mahl! My condolences to the family. Respectfully, Burton Danet, Ph.D., Yale ’60 Co-Founder, A Better Community For All (ABC4All)

  4. George defined the word .mensch.. My life was richer for knowing him and sadly now poorer for losing him.

  5. George, as a fine and committed teacher, creative and thorough investigator, kind and thoughtful colleague, and as a good and concerned person, you are missed!

  6. I used to work at Spring Glen Vet Clinic wher I met Mr. and Mrs Mahl with their cat and dog Lady. I will remember Mr Mahl as a pleasant, smily man with a twinkle in his eye…sort of like a Santa look-a-like without the red suit. I came to work at Yale 4 years ago and never knew that he had been such a well-respected professor here until I saw his tribute in the Yale Bulliten. I wish that I had gotten to know this interesting man more. So sorry for your loss.

  7. I used to work at Spring Glen Vet Clinic where I met Mr. and Mrs Mahl with their cat, and dog Lady. I will remember Mr Mahl as a pleasant, smily man with a twinkle in his eye…sort of a Santa look-a-like without the red suit. I came to work at Yale 4 years ago and never knew that he had been such a well-respected professor here until I saw his tribute in the Yale Bulliten. I wish that I had gotten to know this interesting man more. So sorry for your loss.

  8. I was privileged to care for George’s wife Martha in 2001, shortly before her passing. During several evening shifts, I developed a felt affection and respect for George. He was so mindful of his presence during caregiving, and careful to step back or actively participate, in a way most truly helpful. Over a year later I was honored by his initiative to step up to me while at the grocery store and say .I know you!. At the time, very discouraged by the incessant demands of hospital nursing, I told George we nurses were simply disposable labor: .Use ’em up, throw ’em out, and buy new ones!. In the years that followed, I wish I had told George how profoundly helpful it was for him to say simply .I think you nurses are doing good things over there (YNHH).. In my most demoralized moments, I still remind myself that George watched our work quietly, understood our challenges, and sincerely appreciated our every effort. God love you George, and thank you.

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