At Harvard he was a Lowell House resident and Phi Beta Kappa, receiving his A.B., summa cum laude in social relations, with the Class in 1960. He earned his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1962.
He began his academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he rose from assistant professor to professor of psychology and conducted research on problem-solving, learning, and language.
In 1969 he became a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and from 1987 until his death he was a cognitive research scientist at Columbia University.
He wrote a number of books, including How to Solve Problems: Elements of a Theory of Problems and Problem Solving, Learning and Memory, Cognitive Psychology, and Math Coach: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Succeed in Math, which was coauthored by his daughter Ingrid.
He was an elected member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
When his children were young, he enjoyed volunteering as a math team coach in their school and also coached or refereed a variety of youth sports teams.
He was survived by his partner of twenty-six years, Norma Graham; three daughters, Ingrid, Kirsten '03, A.M. '03, and Jeanette '07; two sons, Abraham '91, J.D. '94, Ph.D. '99, and Peter Graham '02, A.M. '02; two brothers, Warren and Glenn; his former wife, Barbara Gordon-Lickey '63; and three grandchildren.