JOAN FREEMAN, Ph.D. (1935-2023)

Professor Joan Freeman at her home, London 28-09-2010 Photograph by Martin Godwin.

Pathbreaking psychologist and researcher, Professor Joan Freeman, died on July 2, 2023. She was 88.

Along with 9 other psychologists and educators, Prof. Freeman was instrumental in founding the European Council on High Ability The organization grew to have an international impact, reporting on research and practices around the globe and advocating for children and youth with intellectual and academic gifts and talents.  She was active in the organization into her 80s as Founding President and as a spokesperson. In addition, from 2010 she became active in the formation of the European Talent Support Network within ECHA.

Prof. Freeman was a pioneer of the longitudinal research approach to studying gifted children and their families.  In the course of her career, she served as a consultant to universities in several countries, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Prague, Arabian Gulf University, Yale University, the University of Alberta, and the University of Stockholm. Prof. Freeman was in regular demand as a speaker around the world.

In 2007 she won a lifetime achievement award from the British Psychological Society.  The award is given to psychologists with an outstanding record of personal achievements who have also made significant contributions to the advancement of psychological knowledge. In 2014, Mensa International awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Prof. Freeman was born Sally Joan Casket, in 1935. She grew up in Manchester, apart from five years as a child evacuee in Canada during the war. She received her PhD in 1980 from the University of Manchester and became a Chartered Psychologist in 1988, licensed to practice by the British Psychological Society. She was awarded a visiting professorship at the University of Middlesex in 1991. During 1989-2020, living in London, Prof. Freeman served as a consultant to several agencies and universities while maintaining an active research agenda and a private practice working with children.  She was the author or editor of 17 books and over 150 peer-reviewed publications.  

Prof. Freeman was married to Prof. Hugh Freeman, M.D., editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry, who died on May 4, 2011.  She is survived by two sons and one daughter. Her son Tony Freeman passed away shortly before his mother.  

In an obituary for the website of the European Talent Center – Budapest, Csilla Fuszek, director at European Talent Center – Budapest, said, “Joan was interested in everything.  She was a lively and wise thinker; she could marvel at life again and again, and she had a kind of primal curiosity about people and all new things. At conferences, everything Joan presented reflected what she loved the most: intellectual inspiration, a lively argument, good company, the joy and excitement of creation. It is no coincidence that Joan became the founding president of ECHA. It is also no coincidence that she became a role model for many colleagues, an inspirational force not only because of her excellent research but also because of her character, one with strong views yet responsive to challenges. This is how everyone should grow old! we used to say.”

She leaves many friends and colleagues around the world who enjoyed her company, her wit, her passion for psychology, and her zest for adventure.