Learn more about Dr. Gerald R. Patterson, author, research scientist and outdoor adventurer.

Dr. Gerald R. Patterson has published two thought-provoking and beautifully written memoirs, A Guide’s Tale (2009) and Free and Moving (2012). In these two books, Dr. Patterson describes how his love of the wilderness and passion for science have inspired him to explore the north country by canoe and develop new theories that have changed the field of child and family psychology. Now, for the first time, we are invited to share his incredible journey through uncharted waters.

A Guides Tale traces the beginning of this journey back to Dr. Patterson’s upbringing in northern Minnesota where he was raised in a lakeside cabin with the wilderness at his back door. Through a series of stories told as though sitting around a campfire, Dr. Patterson describes how he developed the outdoor skills that were required for the rite of passage into manhood in his tight-knit family. As an adolescent and young man he worked for ten years as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) of the Canadian Quetico, testing and polishing his skills. Working as a canoe guide also set the stage for him to learn about the world of ideas when he was hired by a university professor who was generous with his brandy and worldly views.

A Guide’s Tale describes how serving as an infantryman in World War II provided an unexpected catalyst that changed Dr. Patterson’s life forever. The GI Bill helped him attend college and earn a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Patterson soon launched his research career when several major studies were published demonstrating that the techniques he learned in graduate school were ineffective when applied to delinquent and aggressive children.

Free and Moving describes in detail his efforts to satisfy his passion both for wilderness canoeing and scientific research that can be applied to prevent and treat antisocial behavior in children and families. He discovered that traveling by canoe made it possible to stay in the wilderness for up to a month during which time he could travel two to four hundred miles. In this second book the reader shares the experience of exploring rivers that flow into Hudson Bay, to retrace the fur trading routes of the voyageurs and eventually follow the migration of the Inuit in the tundra of the Northwest Territories.

Dr. Patterson’s journey in science presented a very different set of challenges. His psychological research was guided by two core questions: What causes aggression in children? How can aggression be treated successfully? His emerging theory was based on observational data collected in homes, schools and laboratories. Direct observation of family interactions represented a radical departure from traditional research approaches and it stimulated the development of new theories and treatment models that have changed the landscape of modern child clinical psychology.

A Guide’s Tale and Free and Moving document the unusual and compelling life story of Dr. Patterson in exquisite detail. They are a “must read” both for canoe enthusiasts and for psychologists who want to understand Gerald Patterson the man, his motivation, and his unique contribution to the professional literature.

Gerald Patterson died in the arms of his loving family in August of 2016.