Paul B. Baltes

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Paul B. Baltes (born June 18, 1939 in Saarlautern (today: Saarlouis ), † November 7, 2006 in Berlin ) was a German psychologist and one of the leading gerontologists worldwide. He was a member of the Senate of the Max Planck Society .


Baltes studied psychology at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, where he did his doctorate until 1967. After receiving his doctorate, he worked for 12 years as a professor of psychology and gerontology at several US universities. In 1972 he became Department Head of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University . In 1980, Baltes became a Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. From 1980 to 2004 he headed the developmental psychology research department . In 2005 he founded the International Max Planck Research Network for Aging Research.

The main research interests of Paul Baltes were above all intellectual development over the life span, the exploration of wisdom and methodological innovations. Together with his wife Margret M. Baltes (1939–1999), Professor of Psychological Gerontology at the Psychological Institute of the Free University of Berlin , he developed a theory of successful development in aging as a combination of selection, optimization and compensation .

Baltes became internationally known thanks to the "Testing the Limits" procedure that he introduced, a method for recognizing the plasticity of biopsychosocial developments. Together with Neil J. Smelser , he edited the 26-volume International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences , which was published by Elsevier.

Among other things, Baltes was one of the initiators of the Berlin Aging Study and the Margret M. Baltes and Paul B. Baltes Foundation . He died at the age of 67 after a long, serious illness.


He received numerous science prizes, honors, honorary doctorates and was holder of the order Pour le Mérite for science and the arts . He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (since 1991) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences . Since 2000 he was a member of the Pour le Mérite order of the sciences and arts . He held honorary doctorates from Jyväskylä University , Finland (1990), Stockholm University , Sweden (1992), Geneva University , Switzerland (2000) and Humboldt University Berlin (2002).

Since 2000 he has been the Vice President of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina , of which he has been a member since 1992. He was the founder of the "Junge Akademie", a joint venture between the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and the Leopoldina.

In 2000, Baltes was awarded the IPSEN Foundation's Longevity Prize . On October 16, 2001, Minister of State for Culture Julian Nida-Rümelin awarded him the Grand Cross of Merit with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany .


Works (selection)

Baltes has authored or edited 18 books and more than 250 articles and other academic papers.

  • Autobiographical reflections: From developmental methodology and lifespan psychology to gerontology. In JE Birren & JJF Schroots (Eds.), A history of geropsychology in autobiography (pp. 7-26). Washington, American Psychological Association.
  • Age and aging as the unfinished architecture of human ontogenesis . Nova Acta Leopoldina: New Series, 81, 379–403.
  • Baltes, P. B; Baltes, M. M; Freund, A. M; Lang, F: The measurement of selection, optimization, and compensation (SOC) by self report: Technical report 1999 . Materials from Educational Research No. 66. Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
  • Testing the limits of the ontogenic sources of talent and excellence. In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 407-408.
  • Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline . In: M. Powell Lawton & TA Salthouse (Eds.), Essential papers on the psychology of aging (pp. 86-123). New York, New York University Press.
  • The Social Science Research Council: 75 years young. Items, 52, 69-72.
  • Baltes, P. B; Lindenberger, U ; Staudinger, U. M: The two faces of intelligence in old age. In: Spectrum of Science : Digest "Aging, Cancer and Genes", 2: 78-87.
  • Against prejudices and clichés: The Berlin Aging Study - New Findings about the Target Group Old People . In: Home Care , 4: 224-228.

Individual evidence

  1. BPA press release of October 12, 2001  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  

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