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Bram Oppenheim 1924-2020

A tribute to the British Psychological Society Fellow from Jan Stockdale.

17 June 2020

Abraham Naphtali (Bram) Oppenheim, academic psychologist, was born on 25 November 1924. He died peacefully at home on 27 April 2020.

Before becoming an eminent researcher and charismatic teacher of social psychology and social research methodology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) for nearly 40 years, Bram Oppenheim had a fascinating early life. Born in Haifa in British Mandatory Palestine after his parents had emigrated there from Holland, Bram completed his schooling in Dutch Guiana (now Surinam) before training in Australia and serving in Indonesia with the Free Dutch Army. Bram then completed a BSc in Psychology at the University of Melbourne, where he met his future wife Betwyn (Richards), before serving briefly as a psychologist in the Israeli Army and then settling in London. 

Having initially come to LSE as a PhD student, Bram joined the faculty in 1952, becoming one of the founding members of the School’s Social Psychology (now Psychological and Behavioural Science) Department in the mid-1960s, rising to being Reader in Social Psychology and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Despite many offers of professorships at other universities, Bram remained at LSE until his retirement, in the conviction that it was the best place for his academic discipline. 

Bram was co-author (with Hilde Himmelweit and Pamela Vince) of the seminal work ‘Television and the Child’ (1958), the first empirical study of the impact of television on children’s lives. Bram will be fondly remembered by generations of students for his practical guide to social research methods. With their clear, easily accessible style and instructive examples, both the original ‘Questionnaire Design and Attitude Measurement’ (1966) and the new edition (1992), extended to include interviewing, sampling, research design and data analysis, were indispensable aids to students, teachers and practitioners. Apart from his academic books and journal articles, Bram also wrote ‘The Chosen People’ an account of the rescue of 222 people (including members of his own family) from Nazi concentration camps in exchange for German civilians interned in Palestine. 

As a colleague of Bram’s from 1970 until his retirement, I remember him as a charming and collegial colleague, generous with his time, expertise and advice with both students and colleagues. He made an invaluable contribution to the development of social psychology at LSE and the intellectual life of hundreds of students, especially his graduate students, many of whom went on to be academics in the UK and elsewhere. Another ex-colleague, Professor Julie Dockrell, remembers Bram as someone always willing to share his academic insights and to engage with research questions. While this could be challenging, it helped students, especially those contemplating a career in academia, to develop academic rigour and a questioning approach. We both agree that Bram’s critical engagement with social research methods has left an enduring mark on generations of psychologists. 

Dr Jan Stockdale MBE

Honorary Fellow LSE