2007 INDUCTEE Endel Tulving, PhD Brain & Mind


May 26, 1927

(Tartu, Estonia)


September 11, 2023


MA, University of Toronto (1954)
PhD, Harvard University (1957)

Awards & Honours:

2006: Officer of the Order of Canada

2005: Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, Columbia University

See All Awards
Picture of Endel Tulving

Established the field of memory research in Canada

Endel Tulving

An innovative thinker and scientific leader in psychology

Tulving’s early work on “subjective organization” in free recall led him to the study of retrieval processes that had been largely neglected by previous generations of memory researchers. This work culminated in the “encoding specificity principle.” In 1972 he introduced, and later elaborated, the theory of “episodic memory.” This theory, now generally accepted, has played an important role in the evolution of the concept of “multiple memory systems.” His work has not rested on theoretical shelves but has led to an increased understanding of neurological disorders such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. In recent years, with the advancement of technology, he has been studying the neural correlates of encoding and retrieval processes in different memory systems.

Key Facts

Ranked as the 36th most cited psychologist of the 20th century by the Review of General Psychology

Elected to six national academies of science worldwide

Demonstrated the central role of the frontal lobes for both episodic and semantic memory

Demonstrated that the right and left frontal lobes play different roles in encoding and retrieval

Member of numerous national and international psychology and neurology associations including the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour and Cognitive Science

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

A Canadian icon and major international figure in experimental psychology, Tulving’s theories provided the foundation for the whole field of memory research. By revealing multiple kinds of memory, Dr. Tulving caused a paradigm shift in memory research that remains widely accepted to this day. As a result, he opened the door to more specific research experiments that could better articulate the impact of neurological disorders. With these insights, the scientific and medical community continues to move closer to improvements in care and targeted treatment.

Picture of Endel Tulving


  • Tulving, Endel Induction 2007

    Endel Tulving inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    London, Ontario

  • Dr. Tulving was appointed the Tanenbaum Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, Rotman Research Institute of Baycrest Centre

    This post-retirement work began a second career as a neuroscientist. In 2007, at the age of 80, Dr. Tulving continued to publish ground-breaking work at the Institute.

  • Dr. Tulving published his book “Elements of Episodic Memory"

    Brain & Mind

    In it, Tulving described five distinct memory systems.

  • After a brief period of five years as Professor at Yale University, Dr. Tulving returned to University of Toronto and became Chair of the Department of Psychology

    He remained at the University of Toronto until his retirement in 1992.

  • Dr. Tulving published a book chapter in which he argued that memory for specific events and memory for general knowledge were the manifestations of two distinct memory systems

    Brain & Mind

    He described memory for autobiographical experiences as “episodic memory” whereas memory for facts was “semantic memory.” This perspective challenged most contemporary theories.

  • Dr. Tulving published an influential paper on retrieval processes

    Brain & Mind

    This paper represented the first time someone had separated storage from retrieval and highlighted the mind’s active involvement in encoding information rather than as a response to stimuli.

  • Dr. Tulving joined the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto as an assistant professor

    He was promoted to full professor in 1965.

  • Dr. Tulving’s early work challenged the dominant belief that learning was based on simple associations

    Instead, he focused on free recall studies and expanded research inquiry into memory encoding and memory retrieval processes.

  • At age 17, near the end of World War II, Tulving escaped his native Estonia before it was occupied by the Soviet Union

    In 1949, he immigrated to Canada. After a short stint as a farmhand near London, Ontario, he enrolled in Honours Psychology at the University of Toronto. This marked the beginning of an incredibly productive career that spanned over half a century.


He can state a simple new truth in a very powerful way.