Jack Ingham 1923-2020

A tribute.

Jack Ingham died peacefully on 5 May at the Edinburgh Erskine Care Home at the age of 96. It had clearly been some time since he had been involved in psychological research, but when he was research active his output was prolific and highly influential.

Jack was born in August 1923 in Lytham St. Annes, Blackpool. He did well at school, and went to Manchester University to study Psychology. But his studies were interrupted when he was called up to the Army; his war service was spent in the Royal Armoured Corps and the Glider Brigade. His military activities involved spending some time in Norway, and cracking his skull after fainting on a parade ground! After the war, he completed his degree from Manchester in 1947, soon followed by a PhD from the Institute of Psychiatry in London. His main interests at the time were the relationship between intelligence and memory (he corresponded with some of the key figures in this area including Wechsler, Thurstone, and Burt) and a novel application of signal detection theory in relation to the perception of psychiatric symptoms.

He remained at the Institute for a couple of years as a lecturer, before joining the Neuropsychiatric Research Centre in Cardiff, which became an MRC Unit in 1957, where he continued his interest in clinical applications of signal detection. As part of this work he developed a questionnaire format which minimised the effect of acquiescence set, adapted from Monte Shapiro’s Personal Questionnaire. He also became an honorary lecturer at University College, Cardiff, where he organised the abnormal psychology module. And he became editor of the British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. The main focus of the Cardiff MRC Unit became social psychiatry, an area to which Jack devoted the rest of his career.

In 1973 Jack moved to another MRC Unit, the Unit for Epidemiological Studies in Psychiatry headed by Norman Kreitman, based in Edinburgh University’s renowned Department of Psychiatry. Jack became assistant director in 1978. Sadly Jack’s first wife, Paddy, died several years after the move to Edinburgh.

His research time in Edinburgh was extremely productive. He published many papers in key journals on topics such as the protective effects of confidants, life events, psychiatric disorders in general practice patients and in the general population, illness inception, and self-esteem. He exemplified the contributions that clinical psychologists can make to research areas which were then mostly dominated by formal psychiatric diagnostic approaches.

In addition Jack contributed massively to professional and scientific affairs. He held advisory positions for the British Journal of Psychiatry and the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, and had several important posts in the BPS. In recognition of his achievements, he was made a fellow of the British Psychological Society in 1959, and was awarded an MB Shapiro lectureship in 1987.  

Patrick Miller was one of Jack’s longstanding research colleagues in Edinburgh. He comments: ‘I remember Jack Ingham as a very good researcher and a very kindly man who was a good friend and who always found time to listen to and try to help those in trouble. He was excellent at establishing rapport with complete strangers in the community and eliciting from them lots of delicate information needed for our research. He often applied psychological nous to everyday life. For example his recipe for dealing with boys caught raiding his apple trees is worth noting. ‘You want some apples? Well here you are! Take them! Come back any time and I will give you more!’ He never had any trouble after that!’

Jack was very fit and active. He was always a keen hill walker, and particularly loved the Lake District where he bought a cottage when he and Paddy moved to Edinburgh. He also renewed his interest in his wartime role of supporting the glider pilots, by learning to fly them himself, paying regular gliding visits to an airfield in Fife.

In all, Jack was bright, inspiring, approachable and of the highest integrity and social responsibility; he was simply a really nice bloke. Unfortunately as he got older Jack developed a number of illnesses, so his friends and colleagues saw less of him. But our fond memories of him will linger and boost our spirits for years to come.

He is survived by his second wife Gill, his son Nick, his step-son John Wright, daughters Sally and Carolyn (Cali); eight grandchildren; and  ten great-grandchildren.

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