Remembering Edith Ackermann, 1946-2016

Edith Ackermann was a beloved member of the Media Lab faculty from the early days of the Lab through the mid-90s, and continued to play an active role as a researcher, mentor, advisor, and friend to innumerable people throughout our community. A developmental psychologist by training, Edith devoted her career to researching the intersection of learning, play, design, and technology. She also contributed a great deal to the Media Lab’s intellectual fabric; for example, just this past March she joined a conversation about cybernetics hosted by Lab director Joi Ito.

In addition to her work at the Media Lab, she was a research affiliate at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, a visiting senior researcher for the LEGO Foundation, a senior research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, an honorary professor of developmental psychology at the University of Aix-Marseille, France, and a visiting professor at the University of Siena, Italy.

Capping a long career of honors and accolades, Edith was recognized with a lifetime achievement award in October 2016 at the FabLearn Conference at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Edith passed away on December 24, 2016, at age 70 after battling cancer. Many of those to whom Edith was a friend and an inspiration shared their thoughts about her life, her legacy, and her passing. 

"Every time you had a conversation with Edith, you could be assured of being utterly surprised. She had this incredible talent to always see things in a deeper, richer, and more interesting way. And she would do it in the most generous, constructive, and kind way—a real dialogue. Every minute I had with her was so precious. I was blessed to have seen her just weeks before she passed. She gave me a hug that was a bit too tight, and then I understood that she was saying goodbye. It was sad, but I was also aware that she would live forever in the hearts and minds of the many, many people she has touched with her stunning words and ideas."
—Paulo Bilkstein, Media Lab alum; director, Transformative Learning Technologies Lab and global FabLearn Program, Stanford University Graduate School of Education

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