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Ogden Lindsley (1922-2004)

Page history last edited by Regina Claypool-Frey 14 years, 4 months ago


Ogden Richardson Lindsley (August 11, 1922- October 10, 2004)


It is impossible to discuss Precision Teaching or the Standard Celeration Chart without talking about

Dr. Ogden R. Lindsley, aka, "Og". 


The Child Knows Best 


The Dead Man Test


Care Enough to Chart!




Early Family Life


Ogden Richardson Lindsley was born in Providence, Rhode Island August 11, 1922. He was the oldest son of Ogden Richardson Lindsley, Sr. (4 March 1897- 20 May 1935), a lawyer, and Mildred Flagg Monroe Lindsley, nee Monroe (18 Jan 1898-June 1976). His younger brother was Bradford Monroe Lindsley (4 May 1925-6 August 1960). His paternal grandparents were James Ogden Lindsley (1872-unk) and Carrie Edith Lindsley, nee Richardson (1873-1961). His family lived in, and he spent his childhood in, the Providence, Rhode Island area.




Brown University and Experiences in WWII


Corporal Lindsley 

U.S. Army Air Force. 15th Air Force, 98 Bomb Group.  

Served from February 1942 to November 1945

Ogden Lindsley in WWII


Lindsley entered the ivy league Brown University (Providence, RI) in 1940, majoring in Engineering, which introduced him to the importance of frequency in natural phenomena. In January 24, 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps[1]. Although he had dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot, he trained as a flight engineer and was based in Italy with the 15th Air Force, 98th Bomb Group when his aircrew's B-24 went down in the mountains of Albania on July 22, 1944. On his 22nd birthday, Lindsley and the others were captured by the Germans and moved through camps in Yugoslavia to Stalag Luft IV  in Gross (Groß)  Tychow  (Tychowo) ,Poland. From January to April 1945, he was on a forced march from Stalag Luft IV to Hamburg. He vividly remembered a Valentine’s Day “so icy you had to flex your shoulders to break the ice coating your back.”


He escaped in April, weighing only 114 pounds. Lindsley attributed his survival of the POW camps and the forced winter marches to wilderness skills learned in Boy Scouts and athletic cross-country training. Among his medals from his war experiences are two Purple Hearts. His personal pledge was that if allowed to escape, he would devote half of his life to helping the world and the other half to having fun-—reasoning that his fallen comrades would have insisted on the latter. His career, in addition to enormous amounts of charted data and important scientific discoveries was, in fact, marked by enthusiasm, inexhaustible energy, continuous curiosity and discovery, and...lots of fun! Cartoons, songs, and funny stories occupied an important part of his professional repertoire. 


"...Ogden Lindsley's show was legend. He was said to have entered the classroom with his arms outstretched, one pigeon perched on each wrist and a third on his head. One of the three birds was dyed red and another blue. On the front desk stood a pigeon panel without an enclosure. Each pigeon took a turn being released onto the desk, walking over to the panel and pecking the key according to a different schedule. The colors helped the students keep track of which pigeon and schedule was which..."





Harvard, Behavior Research Lab, and the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB)


On return from the war in 1945, Lindsley re-entered Brown to complete his bachelor of arts (A.B) in 1948 with highest honors in experimental psychology and histochemistry. In 1950 he received his master of science (Sc.M.) in experimental psychology (Advisor, Carl Pfaffman). He entered Harvard University to pursue further graduate work with Robert Galambos in electro-physiology, but changed his plans after his original advisor left Harvard. He received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard in 1957 under the direction of B.F. Skinner. He conducted research at at the Atomic Energy Commission laboratories directed by Dr. Walter W. Jetter of Boston University Medical School, and with Skinner founded and directed, from 1953 to 1965, the Behavior Research Laboratory under the auspices of Harvard Medical School. During that time Lindsley conducted extensive behavior research with human subjects, coined the term “behavior therapy” (Lindsley, Skinner, & Solomon, 1953), and demonstrated that principles of learning discovered in Skinner’s animal operant conditioning labs applied with equal power and precision to humans.


"I promised Fred that if he could get funds, I would give human free operant research with psychotics five years of my life. If it didn’t pan out, my parachute plan was to go to Ringling Brothers Circus and shape Gargantua the gorilla to play a piano and simple card games. I ended up spending eleven and a half years studying psychotics from the back wards of

Metropolitan State Hospital

(Lindsley, 2001, p. 138)



"...I visited the local state hospital to see schizophrenic patients. There a staff psychiatrist told me about an "odd psychologist" who was conditioning chronic schizophrenics in the back wards. With no introduction, I wandered in to the Behavior Research Laboratory created by Ogden Lindsley, and for the next several years, he and his work entranced me...a recent Skinner Ph.D. who was also a tattooed Yankee sailor; a bold empiricist who did away with the mind; an enthusiast who loved to teach...He was a heroic figure. He initiated students to the fellowship of doing science, which he treated as a theatrical activity...for some students it was also exhilarating and liberating, and it remains an important message for those who encourage their students to read more than to do." 

(Cohen, et al., 2006, p.228)


During that period, he published dozens of scientific articles reporting groundbreaking research in psychiatry, advertising, behavioral pharmacology, geriatrics, social psychology, and education. Most of his early publications are as relevant today as when they were published, and well worth the effort to request via interlibrary loan. For his study of psychotic behavior in 1962 Lindsley received the prestigious Lester N. Hofheimer Prize for Research from the American Psychiatric Association in 1962, and in 1964 the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement.


Og Lindsley in the late 1950'sFirst Issue of JABA

Lindsley served on the first Board of Editors of the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (SEAB)(1957-1968), as the first Business Manager (1957-1959) and Secretary-Treasurer (1957-1959). A little known fact is that the first issue of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB) was mailed from Lindsley's lab at the Metropolitan Hospital (Laties, 1987; Lindsley, 1987).


"...Ogden Lindsley introduced the symbol of the pigeon feather at this time when he made up a sign with a pigeon feather that was hung on the bulletin board on days that there were meetings. Later, he sent a white feather (of one of Skinner's original laboratory pigeons) to the charter subscribers of JEAB (Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior)."  (Ferster,2002)


In 1959, Lindsley opened the Behavior Research Company in Belmont, Massachusetts, in order to market equipment, and especially the Lindsley Manipulandum. The Behavior Research Company exists today in its current location in Kansas City, Kansas.


p. 15 JEAB, 77 (2002)




Lindsley's family also joined the ranks of 1950's air crib enthusiasts,

and a blurb on his daughter, Cathy,was published in Newsweek.












On to the University of Kansas and the Birth of Precision Teaching


In 1965 Lindsley was recruited by Dr. Norris Haring to adapt his laboratory research in mental health to applied research in education, specifically special education, at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He joined the faculty of the University of Kansas Medical Center as Full Professor, Director of educational research, and research associate in the Department of Pediatrics' Bureau of Child Research. His hope was to effect radical change in classroom education by replacing percent correct with count per minute frequency measures and use of graphic data displays for decision-making by teachers and students. This new career in teacher training and field-based educational research ultimately had an enormous impact on thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students.


"Children are not retarded. Only their behavior in average environments is sometimes retarded. In fact, it is modern science’s ability to design suitable environments for these children that is retarded….The purpose of this paper is to suggest techniques of designing prosthetic environments for maximizing the behavioral efficiency of exceptional children who show deficits when forced to behave in average environments." 


Lindsley, O.R. (1964).  



"...For his program he had skillfully confiscated a small house across the street from the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit that became our home away from home. The "research house" was classic Kansas, cement steps up to the small porch, in the front door to the right Ogden’s office that was full of paper before we even started, next door to Sharon, the secretary’s room, a stairway to the left that led to the second floor where the graduate students had old wooden desks from the recycle room at the med school under the eves that heard all the rain from without while great thoughts from eager talented graduate students tried to push out the boundaries of science.


A classroom/conference room let Og teach where he thought without losing time walking across the street to the CRU. The exceptional children in the Children’s Rehabilitation Unit were just beginning to benefit from the changes in the federal laws that suggested children with special needs might be able to learn if we could adjust the curriculum and rearrange their environment so that they had equal opportunity to educational mastery..." 


Ode for Ogden Ann Dell Warren Duncan-Hively, and Welles Hively. October 11, 2004


While at the University of Kansas, Lindsley and his graduate students developed a light blue 6 cycle-140 day semilogrithmic chart of standard proportions, (which later became known as the Standard Behavior Chart (Pennypacker, et al.,1972), and currently called the Standard Celeration Chart) and the applied research field of Precision Teaching as systems based on frequency as a basic datum of human behavior and on a standard graphic display of data. In 1968, as he had previously done during the inauguration of JEAB, Lindsley served on first Board of Editors of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA). Two items of note in the first issue of JABA are an article on [the use of a golf counter to track counts (preceding the now popular use of clicker-counters) (Lindsley, 1968), and an early ad for a 6-cycle 140 day chart.



Ogden R. LindsleyJournal of Applied Behavior AnalysisStandard Celeration Charting 2002Standard Celeration Chart


In 1967 Lindsley and associates started a "Behavior Bank" (Koenig, 1971) to serve as a deposit and withdrawl system for charted data to be used for scholarly research; two published manuals encompassing thousands of charts resulted from this system (p 212-13, Calkin, 2005). In September of the same year the Behavior Research Company began to market the standard charts (and continues at the present time). In the late 60's and early 70's Behavior Research Company offered short courses, and throughout the 70's, Lindsley travelled the country giving presentations and trainings on the use of frequency measurement, free operant student performance and use of the Standard Celeration Chart,


1971 began Lindsley's 19-year tenure as Professor of Educational Administration in the University of Kansas School of Education. Over the course of those 19 years, he supervised 13 masters and 34 doctoral dissertations, training future educational leaders to use behavior science principles and Standard Celeration Charting in day-to-day decision-making, and educational and organizational management. Extending use of the daily count-per-minute-per-day chart to count-per-week, count-per-month, and count-per-year applications, his students monitored macro phenomena such as organizational change, stock market activity, world health and economic trends, improving analysis and decision-making in every application they tried. He also held office as the President of the National Association for Gifted Children (1969-70), and the Association for Behavior Analysis (1985-86)




Later Years and Continuance


Og Lindsley, Fred Keller & B.F. Skinner 

From 1990 Lindsley held emeritus status, but continued to be active as an author, speaker and advocate of the Standard Celeration Chart and Precision Teaching. The Standard Celeration Society emerged during the early 1990s to support this work, with Lindsley as the first President of the Society (1993-1995), and charting practitioners have become more and more visible in organizations such as the International Society for Performance Improvement and Association for Behavior Analysis International. Many of Lindsley’s students and protégés have, with Lindsley’s encouragement, formed private-sector schools, learning centers, and consulting firms to make their methods available directly to consumers.





Photo copyright, John W. Eshleman


Photo copyright, John W. Eshleman



May require Internet Explorer to load and view properly


Ogden Lindsley’s work has received recognition internationally, including in 1998 being awarded ISPI's highest honor, the Thomas F. Gilbert Award for Professional Achievement.


On October 6, 2004 Dr. Lindsley penned a farewell message to his friends and colleagues,Love from Og, in which he talked about his illness, his acceptance of death, reminscences, wishes for disposition of his archives, and hopes for the field of Precision Teaching.


Ogden Lindsley died October 10, 2004.


His work continues through several generations of his students. Lindsley asked that those who wish to honor his life and work contribute directly to the Standard Celeration Society, and he appointed the  Ogden R. Lindsley Trust Archives Committee to oversee management of his archives and posthumous publication of his work; this project is in progress at this time.




Ogden Lindsley’s unique qualities were a combination of scientific rigor and unwavering commitment to effecting positive change in the world. His legacy is a powerful set of measurement and performance improvement tools that have just begun to have their multiplicative effect.







Key publications


Sources and further reading:

11/14/08: clean up to meet APA standard.


Binder, C. (2004). Remembering a Measurement Giant: Ogden R. Lindsley (1922-2004). Measurement Counts! . ISPI PerformanceXpress. November 2004


Calkin, A.B. (2005). Precision Teaching: The Standard Celeration Charts, The Behavior Analyst Today, 6, 207-213. 


  • Cohen, D. J., Martin, A., & King, R. A. (2006). Life is with others: Selected writings on child psychiatry. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces

July 1944

The United States Army Aircorps in World War II


Accessed 14 September 2009


Ferster, C.B. (2002). Schedules of Reinforcement with Skinner. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior,77, 303-311



Video interview of Ogden R. Lindsley  May 2002. Interviewer, Rick Kubina.  Accessed May 7, 2008. 


Koenig, C. (1971). The Behavior Bank. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 3(3), 157. 


KU faculty resources available with World War II experience, expertise July 1, 2003. University Relations, Public relations office for the University of Kansas, Lawrence.


Ogden R. Lindsley: A Remembrance.


Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies 


Ogden R. Lindsley (b. 1922) 

Psychology 387. Athabasca University Online Course 


Ogden Lindsley biography

at I.M.A.G.I.N.E website via Internet Archive 


Laties, V.G. (1987). Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior: The first thirty years (1957–1987).

Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 48, 495-512.


Lindsley, O. R. (1962). Operant conditioning techniques in the measurement of psychopharmacologic response. In J. H. Nodine & J. H. Moyer (Eds.), Psychosomatic medicine: The first Hahnemann symposium (pp. 373-383), Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.


Lindsley, O.R. (1964). Direct measurement and prosthesis of retarded behavior. Journal of Education, 147, 62-81 


Lindsley, O.R. (1968). A reliable wrist counter for recording behavior rate. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 77-78. 


Lindsley, O.R. (1987). Collecting the first dollars for JEAB. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 48, 469-471. 


Lindsley, O.R. (1997). VITA AND PUBLICATIONS 


Lindsley, O. R. (2001). Studies in behavior therapy and Behavior Research Laboratory:June 1953-1965.


In W. J. O’Donohue, D. A. Henderson, S. C. Hayes, J. E. Fisher,and L. J. Hayes (Eds.), A history of the behavioral therapies: Founders’ personal histories (pp. 125-153). 

Reno, NV: Context Press.

O'Donohue, W. T. (2001). A history of the behavioral therapies: Founders' personal histories. Reno, Nev: Context Press.


Lindsley, O. R. (2002). Our Harvard pigeon, rat, dog and human lab. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior,77, 385–387.


Lindsley, O. R., Skinner, B. F., & Solomon, H. C. (1953). Study of psychotic behavior, Studies in Behavior Therapy, Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Metropolitan State Hospital, Waltham, MA, Office of Naval Research Contract N5-ori-07662, Status Report I, 1 June 1953 - 31 December 1953. 


Love from Og . SCListerv archive post from Ogden Lindsley, October 6, 2004. 


National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 (Archival Database); World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.


National Archives and Records Administration. World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: World War II Prisoners of War Data File (Archival Database); Records of World War II Prisoners of War, 1942-1947; Records of the Office of the Provost Marshal General, Record Group 389; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.


Ode for Ogden. Ann Dell Warren Duncan-Hively, and Welles Hively. SCListserv post, October 11, 2004 


Ogden R. Lindsley 1922-2004. 

Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. Accessed December 16, 2008.

  • Pennypacker, H. S., & Binder, C. V. (2006). OBITUARIES - Ogden R. Lindsley Jr. (1922-2004). The American Psychologist. 61 (1), 72.


Pennypacker, H. S., Koenig, C. H., & Lindsley, O. R. (1972). Handbook of the standard behavior chart. Kansas City, KS: Precision Media.


Rutherford, Dr. Alexandra (2007).  B. F. Skinner from laboratory to life  History and Theory of Psychology Program, Department of Psychology, York University. April 24, 2007


Rutherford, Dr. Alexandra (2003). Skinner boxes for psychotics: Operant conditioning at Metropolitan State Hospital . The Behavior Analyst 26.


  • Rutherford, A. (2003). SPECIAL SECTION ON HISTORY AND BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS - Skinner boxes for psychotics: Operant conditioning at Metropolitan State Hospital. Behavior Analyst. 26 (2), 267.


"Stalag Luft IV"

Hell's Angels, 303rd Bomb Group


Accessed 14 September 2009


Student degrees under Carl Pfaffman, Theses & Dissertations, Brown University 

Accessed 26 April 2008 


Sugai, G. & Horner, R.H. (Eds.) Encyclopedia of behavior modification and cognitive behavior therapy (Volume 3: (Educational applications). New York: Sage Publications.

Preprint draft posted to SCListserv 8 Oct 2004

by Dr. Clay Starlin. 

Accessed 8 May, 2008.


Tests Show Radiation Causes Abnormal Fear: Grad Student's Experiments Prove Unusual Panic Follows Exposure. 

? Sutton, Harvard Crimson, Thursday, April 16, 1953. 

Accessed January 18, 2009. 

Reply to the article,



Ogden R. Lindsley, Harvard Crimson, Wednesday, May 13, 1953. 

Accessed January 18, 2009.







Early life


Education and research


Harvard University and Metropolitan State Hospital


University of Kansas


Honors and recognition




Key publications








See also


Further reading


Archives and research collections


External links


Related information

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  1. National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 (Archival Database); World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

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