A Tribute to Dr. Evelyn Perloff
We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Dr. Evelyn Perloff on May 26, 2022. Evelyn, the creator of the Health and Psychosocial Instruments (HaPI) database and the beloved founder and matriarch of Behavioral Measurement Database Services, was 101. She passionately devoted 50 years of her professional life to documenting and disseminating information about the wide range of concepts that researchers have measured in the psychological and health sciences, as well as the measurement properties of these research tools. She was a staunch advocate for measurement as a quintessential engine of science and professional practice, and was a visionary provider of measurement-related information for students, researchers, and practitioners in the health and psychosocial sciences.
As Evelyn often reminded those around her, the most important aspect of all empirical science is measurement. Precision of measurement determines the upper limit of attainable empirical strength and the theoretical and applied utility of every scientific research endeavor.
Although she completed most of the degree requirements for a double major in chemistry and biology in her junior year at Western College, Evelyn’s fascination with the science of measurement in relation to human beings made her rethink her career path. She vividly recalled the stunned reaction of the dumbfounded Chair of the Chemistry Department when she informed him during her senior year that she was changing her major to psychology and transferring to the University of Cincinnati (where she received her Bachelor’s degree in 1942). She went on to earn a Master’s degree (1946) and a Ph.D. (1951) in psychology at Ohio State University. She was a lecturer at Northwestern University (1957-59) and at Kendall College (1958-59), and a faculty member in psychology at Purdue University (1963-69) and in nursing with a joint appointment in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh (1971-91).
Evelyn was a trailblazing pioneer, and an indefatigable force of nature. She never grew weary of working on measurement-related projects and discussing future directions for advancing the science of measurement. Her insatiable curiosity and hunger for knowledge inspired countless students and researchers alike and raised professional awareness of the vital importance of measurement in science. She had an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of her goals and to the higher ideal of using her intellectual gifts to make the world a better place.
The HaPI database was Evelyn’s brainchild. It was born in a file folder she created in 1972 and cradled there for more than a decade, passed among grateful colleagues who learned of it by word of mouth. As a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Evelyn had witnessed the weeks and months her peers spent seeking or creating measurement instruments (e.g., questionnaires, checklists, rating scales, survey interviews, and tests) to use in their research. She realized that far too often they were simply reinventing the wheel. Much of the time, appropriate instruments already existed, although finding them was like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Evelyn began sifting through scholarly journals in her field and found that the information she wanted was embedded in the articles: descriptions of the measures used to assess anything from aggression to memory loss to zest for life. Her task was to extract the information and classify the instruments—an endeavor that she tirelessly pursued up until the end of her life. In 1988, she joined the digital era and put her database online. Today, the large-scale database distributors EBSCO and Ovid Technologies both offer the database worldwide through subscriptions to libraries, universities, medical schools, and hospital systems.
Behavioral Measurement Database Services honors Evelyn’s memory, as we carry on her lasting legacy and work to expand her vision of the future of measurement. The HaPI database continues to grow under the direction of her daughter, Dr. Linda Perloff. Evelyn’s spirit lives on, and we will miss her always.