Behavioral Psychologist Henry McIlvaine Parsons, 92, Dies
Sunday, August 1, 2004; Page C10
Henry McIlvaine "Mac" Parsons, 92, an experimental psychologist who worked in the Washington area for 40 years, died July 16 at a hospital in Huntington, Long Island, N.Y., after a stroke.
Dr. Parsons specialized in behavior analysis and the interactions between technology and humans while executive director of the Institute for Behavioral Research in Silver Spring from 1974 to 1979, then as manager of the Center for Human Factors at the Human Resources Research organization in Alexandria from 1979 until his death.
A prolific writer in his field, he wrote the book "Man Machine System Experiments," which was published by Johns Hopkins Press in 1972. He also wrote 22 book chapters and more than 100 articles and technical reports on such subjects as ergonomics, aging, technology and environmental design.
He was a fellow and recipient of some of the most prestigious awards of the American Psychological Association and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. He also was a fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences and a member of the Cosmos Club.
Dr. Parsons, who lived in Arlington before spending the last couple of years on Long Island, was born in Lenox, Mass., and grew up there and in Rye, N.Y. He graduated from Yale University in 1933 and worked as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and, briefly, as an organizer for the New York Newspaper Guild.
During World War II, he served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy and commanded an amphibious ship in the Okinawa campaign and occupation of Japan.
After the war, he received a master's degree in experimental psychology from Columbia University and, in 1963, a doctorate in that discipline from the University of California at Los Angeles.
His non-scientific pursuits included skiing, sailing and travel, as well as composing and collecting limericks. He once was president of the Amateur Ski Club of New York and remained an ardent skier into his eighties. He celebrated his 80th birthday by windsurfing on the Potomac.
His marriages Renee Parsons and Marina Svetlova ended in divorce.
His third wife, Marjorie Thorson Parsons, died in 1999; they were married for 42 years.
Survivors include his companion, Carol Noyes of Syosset, N.Y.; a son from his first marriage, Jack Parsons of Santa Fe, N.M.; and two grandsons.
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