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Louise Bates Ames

Former YSM faculty

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Louise Bates Ames


Years active at Yale: 1933-1950

Dr. Ames is being recognized for her significant role in research on and popularization of norms of child development. Dr. Ames became the best known of several women MDs and PhDs who collaborated with Arnold Gesell, MD, director of the Clinic of Child Development at Yale from 1911 to 1948. The women members of the clinic included Catherine Strunk Amatruda, MD (1903-1949), Frances Ilg, MD (1902-1981), and Helen Thompson, PhD. Dr. Gesell and his team studied detailed stages of normal development of children by analyzing frames of film taken of children placed inside an experimental dome, which enabled the children to be viewed from outside. The collaborators did almost all the analysis of frames upon which the norms of development were based, and co-authored many of Dr. Gesell’s books. Dr. Ames came to Yale as a PhD student in 1933. Her thesis was on the sequence of prone progression in the human infant. She collaborated on such works as The First Five Years of Life (1940) and Infant and Child in the Culture of Today (1943), and also published research articles on her own. She, like Dr. Gesell, took a biological approach to child development (as opposed to behaviorism or psychoanalysis) and believed that stages of motor and cognitive development were predictable. She was particularly interested in tests for “developmental diagnosis” and age-related responses to Rorschach tests. In 1948, Drs. Ames, Ilg, and Janet Learned Rodell, founded the private Gesell Institute for Human Development in New Haven. She and Ilg, in addition to ongoing research, published books on child development for a general audience. They also wrote a syndicated newspaper column, called “Child Development,” and later, “Parents Ask,” from 1951 to 1996. Dr. Ames lectured widely and hosted a weekly TV talk show in the 1950s and 1960s.