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Obituary: David R. Siegel Metcalf ’43

David R. Siegel Metcalf, a longtime Denver psychoanalyst whose research was among the earliest to document the link between pesticides and brain abnormalities, died Aug. 21, 2010, in Walterboro, S.C. He was 89.

In 1949, after completing his residency in pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, he became a faculty member of the CU pediatrics department and later joined the psychiatry department. He specialized in electroencephalography (EEG), the discipline of studying developmental changes in brain electrical patterns.

During his investigations, Metcalf kept a number of rhesus monkeys in the basement of the psychiatry department's facility on East Ninth Avenue. It was the early 1960s, and he closely followed scientist Harry Harlow's celebrated experiments on infant-maternal separation in rhesus monkeys.

Metcalf's own work with rhesus monkeys included his groundbreaking documentation of the brain abnormalities caused by exposure to pesticides. That particular study expanded to include the workers at Shell Chemical Co.'s pesticide manufacturing plant at the U.S. Army's Rocky Mountain Arsenal northeast of Denver. His findings caused a sensation in the local media and led to testimony before a federal panel investigating environmental hazards at the arsenal.The plant later became part of a Superfund environmental cleanup site.

Metcalf was an insatiable reader, and what he read often inspired his projects, including the seminars he taught for practicing psychiatrists and physicians. Among these was "The Psychology of the Novel." Metcalf believed that the most celebrated 19th-century novelists — pre-Freudian, he cautioned — offered valuable, practical psychological insights via character development. This became among his most popular lectures throughout his life.

In his early 80s, long after he retired, he led a seminar on Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" for a senior center in South Carolina.

In 1975, Metcalf left his faculty position at the university to establish a private practice but continued teaching the seminars in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and South Carolina.

Metcalf's given name was David Siegel. He changed it to Metcalf, a family name adopted upon marrying his first wife, Antioch College classmate Genevra Bowen, Antioch College class of 1943. They divorced after raising their four children, and he married Sheila Horan in 1971, Antioch College class of 1946. He is survived by sons Evan Metcalf of Denver and Conard Metcalf of Boulder and Bremerton, Wash.; daughters Celia McVicker of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Gail Shinney of Cheyenne; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. A Denver memorial service is planned for early October.