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Obituary: Professor Annette Karmiloff-Smith

Professorial Research Fellow, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development

Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development in the Department of Psychological Sciences, who died on Monday 19 December 2016 at the age of 78, was a seminal thinker in the field of child development.

Having started her career as a UN translator in Geneva, her interests soon turned to the emergence of language in children. She trained under Barbel Inhelder and Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva, where she was a member of the International Centre for Genetic Epistemology.

After a spell at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, Professor Karmiloff-Smith moved to London in 1982, conducting research at the Medical Research Council Cognitive Development unit on typical cognitive development. In 1998, she moved to the UCL Institute of Child Health, where she headed the Neurocognitive Development Unit, and in 2006 she moved to the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck.

"Annette always emphasised the importance of development itself when trying to understand both typically and atypically developing children," said Professor Denis Mareschal, from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development. "This theoretical work led her to take substantial steps forward in understanding the abilities of children with Williams and Downs Syndromes."

"Annette was hugely loved by her students and colleagues and received dozens of accolades during her career, including a Fellowship of the British Academy, Fellowship of the Cognitive Science Society, Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences and honorary doctorates from universities across the world," he added. "She will be greatly missed."