January 20, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 8

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    Howard Moltz, pioneer in study of maternal behavior

    Howard Moltz, Professor Emeritus in Psychology and a resident of Hyde Park, died Friday, Nov. 26, 2004. He was 77.

    Moltz was a developmental biopsychologist and a pioneer in the study of imprinting and maternal behavior. He discovered maternal pheromones, which female rats use to attract their nursing pups, and to thermoregulate and protect them from diseases during weaning.

    He then went on to study the behavioral role of male brain temperatures during mating. Building on his animal work as a model, he and colleagues later used PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans to explore connections between human brain function and sexual behavior in men.

    Combining PET scan technology with pharmacology, Moltz and colleagues showed exclusively that homosexual men utilize serotonin differently in specific brain regions than do heterosexual men, suggesting that homosexuality as a behavior may not be a choice.

    The evidence, published this fall in the journal Brain Research, first came in a paper presented in 2003 at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference.

    “He and his laboratory did some very innovative research, which always told an important and interesting story,” said Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology. “He was very good at training students and junior faculty to make sense of data. In his papers, his writing was stunningly clear. His students have gone on to be leaders in the field.”

    Moltz was born in New York City and received a B.A. in philosophy and psychology in 1949 and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1953, both from New York University.

    He was a faculty member at Brooklyn College until 1970, when he joined the Chicago faculty as a Professor in Psychology. He was named Chairman of Psychology later that year and served in that position until 1973.

    He published dozens of research papers on topics such as imprinting behaviors and the impact of pheromones, looking, for instance, at the ways in which pheromones affect maternal behavior.

    In later years, Moltz also turned his interests to Jewish studies, helping to organize the University’s Committee on Jewish Studies, publishing several papers in the field and teaching.

    “He was an excellent committee member and helped make sure we looked at a diverse set of opinions when we went about our work,” said Philip Bohlman, the Mary Werkman Professor in Music and Chair of the Committee on Jewish Studies.

    “Howard always challenged us to understand the potential for Jewish Studies to expand its traditional disciplinary base and thereby to distinguish what we at Chicago would contribute to the field as a whole.”

    Moltz was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and served as president of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology.

    His wife, Marilyn, three daughters, Erica Moltz, Lauren Moltz and Marci Malter, and seven grandchildren, survive him.