In Memoriam: In life and death, a scientist brings out the best in others | Science News

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In Memoriam: In life and death, a scientist brings out the best in others

Relationship scholar Caryl Rusbult's colleagues mourn her loss and celebrate her scientific legacy

By
3:03pm, February 5, 2010

Caryl Rusbult was the queen of close relationships. For more than 30 years, and for the past six years at Vrije University in Amsterdam, she studied how some men and women form lasting, supportive marriages. Rusbult’s work led her to conclude that close partners are interpersonal artists, sculpting one another’s strengths and weaknesses so as to bring out the best in each other. She called this the Michelangelo Phenomenon, a reference to the great Renaissance sculptor who said that he used a chisel to release ideal figures from blocks of stone in which they slumbered.

Rusbult was a sculptor herself, shaping the scientific lives of dozens of psychology graduate students and many colleagues. At the end of

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