Arnold M. Cooper, M.D., who practiced psychiatry and psychoanalysis for almost six decades and was internationally acknowledged as an educator and writer in the field, died of lung cancer at Southampton Hospital on June 9 at the age of 88. A memorial service was held at the Riverside Chapel in Manhattan on June 17.
A longtime resident of Water Mill as well as Manhattan, Dr. Cooper had an open and welcoming personality that gathered in those around him whether they were the psychoanalysts, academics, and students who filled his professional life, or the musicians, artists, and writers who were his friends. Everyone called him Arnie.
Dr. Cooper advanced the understanding of psychoanalysis as a science. In accepting a Sigourney Trust Award in 2009, Dr. Cooper described what he called his “political writings” as an attempt to push psychoanalysis toward “robust research and a scholarly base.” He was known for studying and writing about the narcissistic-masochistic character.
A selection of his more than 150 papers was published in 2005 as “The Quiet Revolution in American Psychoanalysis.” He also was the co-author, with Ethel Person, of a clinical guide and reference book on psychoanalysis that is considered an essential text.
Over his long career, he was vice president of the International Psychoanalytic Association and president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, which he dedicated, in the words of a colleague, “to scientific discussion rather than policing thought.” He was an English professor at Columbia College, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a member of the faculty of the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, where he received early training and later instituted many programs.
At Columbia, hundreds of undergraduates signed up for his yearlong course on Freud and post-Freudian analysis, a prerequisite for pioneering courses linking psychoanalysis and literature, sociology, or art history, among other disciplines. He was said to be a brilliant classroom teacher, at every academic level, and he served as a visiting professor or consultant to many universities and institutes. In 1974, he became a professor and associate chairman for education of the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Born in Brooklyn on March 9, 1930, Arnold Michael Cooper grew up in Roselle, N.J., the second of Morris and Clara Aronow Cooper’s four boys. There was scant intellectual life at home, and he concentrated on the clarinet in high school, sometimes practicing for four or five hours at a time. As an adult, he played with the Westside Winds and several other chamber groups in New York and practiced every day until the last year of his life.
Music introduced him to Katherine Addleman, a concert pianist, and they were married in 2000. Ms. Addleman said he was a very disciplined man, who also exercised every day. She noted that until the last three months of his life he saw patients four days a week and went on “grand rounds.”
After high school, Dr. Cooper followed one of his brothers to Columbia College on a partial music scholarship. As a junior, however, a classmate introduced him to the work of Freud. Recalling this introduction to psychiatry, Dr. Cooper said, “I was fascinated. I never intended to go to medical school until I was told that was what you had to do to be a psychoanalyst.” He gave up ideas of becoming a professional musician, an English teacher, or a lawyer, and attended the School of Medicine at the University of Utah, which, he noted later, did not have one course in psychiatry.
He focused instead on physiology and continued his education as a research fellow at Harvard, studying the liver. Internship at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital followed, and, in 1950, he began a psychiatric residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Three years of subsequent training at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research then started his long association with that institution.
Dr. Cooper came to the South Fork after his first marriage ended, renting first in Amagansett and later in Water Mill, a house he eventually bought. His annual lawn parties there were a can’t-be-missed summer event for his many friends.
In addition to his wife, three children survive. They are Andrew Cooper of Austin, Tex., Melissa Cooper Hamburger of New York, and Tom Van Cooper of Burlington, Vt. A grandson and two granddaughters survive, as well.
In her introduction to “The Quiet Revolution in American Psychoanalysis,” Elizabeth L. Auchincloss, a noted professor and training psychoanalyst who had been one of Dr. Cooper’s students, said, “Cooper’s unique ability to observe and reflect upon the process of change . . . has helped make him the guide to whom psychoanalysts repeatedly turn to understand not only where, but even what, psychoanalysis is.”
His family has suggested donations to the Peconic Land Trust, P.O. Box 1776, Southampton 11969.