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Sociologist Patricia Barchas dies at 58
STANFORD -- Patricia Ruth Corbitt Barchas, a former Stanford sociologist, died Tuesday, July 6, of a brain tumor at her home in Los Angeles. She was 58.
Barchas was a pioneer in the field of sociophysiology - the effects of social behavior on the brain.
A native of Chickasha, Okla., Barchas grew up in Los Angeles. She attended Pomona College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English and history in 1956. She then went on to earn her master's in education from the University of Chicago. In 1971, she earned her doctorate in sociology at Stanford. She also spent many years studying neurophysiology and endocrinology.
While at Pomona, she met her future husband, Jack Barchas. He served for many years on Stanford's psychiatry faculty.
Early in her career, Mrs. Barchas taught emotionally disturbed children. Later, she joined the faculty of Stanford's Department of Sociology. She also served as a senior research associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, where she headed the Program in Sociophysiology of the Division of Child Psychiatry and Development.
Most recently, she was a member of the research staff at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Much of her scholarly work utilized volunteer subjects in controlled laboratory conditions to investigate fundamental mechanisms of social behavior.
She demonstrated that electrical brain waves are activated by increasing social status and that the secretion of some hormones is changed by social behavior.
She discovered that small amounts of alcohol could alter the formation and retention of social hierarchies in humans; showed that humans and non-human primates form new social hierarchies in analogous ways; and provided evidence that groups of human females and groups of human males use different social processes in solving problems, with the females being more consensual.
She was co-author of a report commissioned by Congress, dealing with aggression and violence, and was a co-author of an Institute of Medicine report dealing with mental disorders and substance abuse. Books authored by Barchas include Social Cohesion, Social Hierarchies, and Sociophysiology.
Barchas' brain tumor was diagnosed 14 1/2 years ago, and she was one of the longest known survivors of her form of cancer. At the time of her first surgery, doctors said they expected her to live about two years.Jack Barchas said that their experience with her health problems gave them a patient's perspective about Stanford Hospital. "The care from the hospital and staff was superb, and Pat's doctor, Gerald Silverberg, who performed seven operations, is a physician par excellence."
In an interview with Stanford News Service in 1981, Jack Barchas credited his wife with stimulating his interest in behavioral problems. "She was the first of us to work with disturbed people, and she also did much to interest me in animal behavior," he said. "We have collaborated in some of our work and that has been a special pleasure."
More recently, Barchas commented on how much his wife loved teaching and enjoyed working with undergraduates and transfer students. She chaired the university committee on individually designed majors and the campus committee on use of human subjects in research.
Barchas also played a key role in the decision a decade ago of her in-laws, Sam and Cecile Barchas, to donate a collection of more than 2,000 rare books on the history of science and ideas to Stanford's Department of Special Collections in the University Libraries.
Jack Barchas currently is at UCLA, where he is dean for research development and neuroscience and also professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. He will take over Sept. 1 as chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College in New York City.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Barchas is survived by a son, Isaac, a graduate student working toward a law degree and a doctorate from the committee on social thought at the University of Chicago, and a daughter-in-law, the former Janine Duyvestein, a graduate student in English at Chicago. Both are Stanford graduates. Other survivors are her mother, Jimmie Corbitt, of Canyon Country, Calif., and two sisters, Virginia Corbitt Davis of Canyon Country, and Mavis Best of Prescott, Ariz.
Graveside services took place on Friday, July 9, at Alta Mesa Cemetery in Palo Alto. The family prefers donations to the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford.
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