Contemporary Psychometrics: A Festschrift for Roderick P. McDonald

By Albert Maydeu-Olivares | Go to book overview

Roderick P. McDonald:
A Personal History

Roderick Peter McDonald was born on April 16, 1928, in Sydney, Australia. His father was an accountant, his mother a trained nurse. Both very “modern” parents, they quietly encouraged him in academic pursuits and in his developing interests in classical music, swimming, and sailing. He grew up with boats at their waterfront house in an inner suburb of Sydney. At Fort St. Boys’ High School, a school selecting on the basis of I.Q. and remarkable for the excellence of its teachers, he was torn between a love of literature and languages and a love of mathematics and physics.

After completing a Master of Science degree in physics at the University of Sydney in 1950, Rod worked first in London and later in Sydney in experimental physics. Wishing to pursue studies for a degree in English literature, he returned to the University of Sydney as a part-time student. He says he was side-tracked into psychology by higher grades, prizes, and the award of the University Medal in that subject. Appointed in 1958 as an instructor in psychology at the University of New England (located in the district of that name in northern New South Wales), he taught and carried out research in experimental psychology, publishing a number of papers in space perception and in learning theory.

Teaching an undergraduate course on abilities, and giving a lecture on the elements of factor analysis, he asked the class—and himself—what would happen to the model if the regression of the test scores on the factors were nonlinear. Contemplating his own question led him to his first set of answers, which became his doctoral dissertation, completed in 1964 under the supervision of John Keats, then at the University of Queensland, and published in 1967 as Psychometric Monograph No. 15. This marked his move from experimental psychology into measurement. The theory of nonlinear factor analysis, supported by the use of harmonic analysis to “linearize” strictly nonlinear models (such as the normal ogive and latent distance models), gave a unified and general treatment of factor theory, item response theory, and Lazarsfeld’s latent structure models, accompanied by a set of exploratory techniques for differentiating among the models in applications.

Following completion of his doctorate, Rod spent 1965 on a Fulbright scholarship at the Educational Testing Service in Fred Lord’s research group, along with Karl Jöreskog, Walter Kristoff, Mel Novick, and others. Further papers and computer programs resulted from this visit.

-xi-

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