By TONIA HILL
Dr. Janellen Huttenlocher, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, died in Chicago, Nov. 20, due to complications from acute pancreatitis and heart disease. She was 84. Huttenlocher was a pioneer in the field of childhood development whose research explored how children acquire language, understand space and learn math.
Huttenlocher was born in Buffalo, NY in 1932 to Sylvia and Alex Burns. She received her undergraduate education at the University of Buffalo and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University in 1960. She was a professor of Psychology at Columbia University in 1974. For forty years, she was a researcher, teacher, and mentor at the University of Chicago until her retirement.
Huttenlocher was known internationally for her work in child development. Her research focused on a broad range of topics such as categorization, spatial coding, and memory. It was marked by groundbreaking work on the role of environment in the development of language skills, including the importance of parents talking to their young children often and in complex sentences.
She also co-authored the books Making Space: The Development of Spatial Representation and Reasoning and Quantitative Development in Infancy and Early Childhood and published hundreds of research articles.
Her first publication was published in 1956, and her last in 2015.
Huttenlocher married her lifelong best friend, Dr. Peter Huttenlocher in 1954. He was a Professor of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Chicago. She and her husband Peter shared an interest in classical music and the arts.
Huttenlocher is survived by her children, Daniel, Anna (Andrew) and Carl (Tami), her six grandchildren and the many graduate students she helped to train at Columbia University and the University of Chicago.
A memorial service will be held at Montgomery place, 5550 S. Shore Dr., Chicago, on Jan. 28, at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the University of Chicago Department of Psychology.