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Richard P. Barthol

Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

Los Angeles




Richard P. Barthol, known for his contributions to industrial and organizational psychology, sports psychology, and kinesiology, died on July 31, 2004, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.


Richard Barthol was born on March 17, 1919, in San Francisco, a son of Oscar and Anna Catherine Barthol, who were survivors of the San Francisco quake. Barthol received his B.S. in 1939 from what was then the College of Commerce of the University of California, Berkeley. While an undergraduate, Barthol joined other students in the “little theatre without a theatre” sponsored by the Associated Students. He acted in plays and served as stage manager, working with performers who later became famous, such as Eldred (later Gregory) Peck, Kenneth Toby, and composer Nathan Scott. It was there that he met and married another performer, Esther Simpson, who was his devoted wife and companion for his remaining 62 years. On graduation, Barthol served as an unemployment insurance supervisor with the California Department of Employment and as a training supervisor and industrial engineer. With the advent of World War II, he was not accepted for military service because of his poor vision. He then worked in the shipyards, building Liberty ships. Determined to serve in the military, he memorized the eye chart and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Artillery in 1943 serving in the Philippines. He was recalled to active duty, as psychologist in the Air Force in the Korean War and later in the Vietnam War, rising to the rank of major. He returned to UC Berkeley for graduate studies in mathematics but was instead drawn to psychology, a field in which he had not had a single undergraduate course. He received his M.A. degree in psychology in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1953, following which he accepted an appointment as a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. In 1956, he returned to California with an appointment in the Department of Psychology at UCLA, continuing there as a professor, including a term as vice chair of the department, until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1986.


Professor Barthol’s major focus at UCLA was in industrial and organizational psychology and organizational development, drawing students from the Graduate School of Management, as well as psychology. His graduate students carried out extensive field studies, including socio-technical systems studies in diverse areas, including the UCLA Parking Service, the UCLA Personnel Department, and the baseball team. In addition to teaching in the Department of Psychology, Barthol was also an active participant in the Engineering Executive Program of the School of Engineering, a special graduate program for successful practicing engineering managers that blended humanistic and scientific cultures. Barthol introduced the students to the importance of interpersonal relations, giving them insight into themselves and their interactions with their subordinates. Many EEP graduates considered such insights the high point in that very successful program and engaged Barthol as a consultant after they graduated.

Professor Barthol’s consultations included a wide range of clients: the Girl Scouts, the County Probation Department, the L.A. Police Force, the Council of Churches, the Veterans’ Administration, a Family Therapy Center, United Airlines, and Baskin Robbins. His international reputation also led to consulting appointments to the Peace Corps in Venezuela, Panama, and Malaysia; to TEAM-Co in Copenhagen, Denmark; and to the U.S. Agency for International Development in Spain. He was also a visiting fellow and lecturer for five years at the University of Leeds, England, as well as at the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and at Charles University in Czechoslovakia.


Professor Barthol saw a ready application of human relations and industrial/organizational concepts and principles to sport psychology and kinesiology. He then developed several courses on the psychology of sports and an interdisciplinary seminar called Psychokinesiology. Working with student assistants he then applied such an approach to analyses of the UCLA baseball team, football team, and track and field participants. Among Barthol’s research publications are a series of studies sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Administration of the Department of Defense. “Project Echo” utilized a device for measuring and evaluating values and value systems. These instruments were utilized in the Naval Personnel Research and Development Command to determine morale and motivation factors contributing to effectiveness in Navy and civilian blue collar workers. The techniques were later applied to comparative studies of changing values among UCLA students, and in examining differences between Juvenile Hall inmates and “disadvantaged” high school students.


Combining his knowledge in human engineering and sports psychology, Barthol developed several patents on devices to train golfers to keep their eyes on the ball, and later to train baseball catchers and baseball pitchers to improve their hitting ability.


There are scientists and educators who manage to focus their attention intensely on a very limited and very specific area of research and application and that then becomes their claim to fame. Richard Barthol was one who was determined to follow his interests in any and all areas to which his attention might be drawn. Such a broad focus may lead to somewhat lesser recognition in any specific area, but taken all together, the overall effect on others may be equally great or greater. At least, such an approach may make one’s life all the more interesting and exciting. In his lifetime, he and Esther visited all seven continents and lived in four of them. In addition to Esther, Dr. Barthol is survived by two sons, Bruce, a star performer, composer, and arranger with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and Clark, a marine surveyor, his daughter-in-law, Meta, and granddaughters, Sara and Lora.



Bertram H. Raven