Eulogy for Henry Kaiser
Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
Henry Felix Kaiser (1927-1992)
Henry must have met Chet Harris through Ledyard Tucker's Working Group on
Factor Analysis, an invisible college of Thurstone/Holzinger descendants
(Tucker himself, Harman, Horst, Meredith and others) who met yearly to
push against the frontiers of factor analysis in the early 1960s. He was
struck by what he considered the brilliance of Harris's 1962
paper, "Some Rao-Guttman Relationships." Henry felt that it "solved" the
number-of-factors problem, i.e., the problem was now understood and one
could proceed to develop factor analytic theory within the framework
Harris had laid down. Kaiser had earlier solved the second of the three
great problems inherited from the founders, viz., the analytic rotation
problem, in ways now familiar to all. There remained the problem of
analytic factor transformation in the general case. The two, Kaiser and
Harris, felt an intellectual affinity. Harris invited him to Madison for
the Summer of 1963 to teach, and so did Dave Wiley, Les McLean, Ron
Ragsdale, Bob Pruzek and I become the beneficiaries that summer of our
Kaiser taught a brilliant course. His notes survive as an example of
lucidity and organization. The superfluous exotica of factor analysis was
pruned away, and the roots were exposed. Where clear answers existed, they
were clearly-stated. Where understanding lapsed, no excuses were made.
Unwilling to settle for a kludge, Henry's taste for elegance led him
toward the truth. I remember this about his style as a teacher. He mocked
and ridiculed pomposity. His sharpest barbs were saved for his colleagues
who hid their anxieties behind self important posing. He was likewise
incapable of acting pompously himself.
Kaiser and Harris worked briefly that summer on analytic factor
transformation. Kaiser was the world's expert on the problem. Harris came
to the problem fresh. Kaiser came to class one day staggered by what
Harris had shown him; by splitting the transformation matrix into a murky
series involving orthogonal and diagonal matrices, the problem could be
put in a form where analytic rotations could be applied to achieve oblique
transformations without fear of collapsing the factor space. We called it
"orthoblique" transformation; the world calls it Harris-Kaiser
transformation. There was never any question that Kaiser prepared the way
for Harris to solve the problem. Henry was the first to say so, and his
honest humility spoke most to his own character.
Kaiser came to the University of Wisconsin in 1964 as a faculty member of
the Department of Educational Psychology. I was lucky to enlist him as a
member of my dissertation committee. The particular twist my work took led
toward alpha factor analysis. He came to play a central role in the
research. In February 1965, I came to his office to receive his comments
on the first draft of my dissertation. His office was open but seemingly
empty. He heard my footsteps and yelled at me to sit down in the chair
facing his desk. He lay on a mattress behind his desk, out of sight. For
45 minutes from this position, he heaped ridicule on my draft. "As a
tenured, full professor, I should not have to edit garbage like this, Mr.
Glass. You're a big boy now, start writing like one." Persons to whom I
tell this story marvel that I wasn't devastated. They never knew Kaiser.
He parodied the autocratic professor; even his calumny was somehow warmly
comic. After all, this man once listed his degrees in the American
Psychological Association directory as B.A., M.S., Ph.D., E.S.. The E.S.
was for Eagle Scout.
Irreverence must be a necessary ingredient in the recipe for creativity.
Whoever worships received wisdom too ardently will never see beyond it.
Henry Kaiser had a brilliance and an irreverence that seldom come our way.
~17 February 1992