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The educational publishing world has lost one of its titans. Bob Worth, the founder of Worth Publishers and an admired figure in textbook publishing, has left us at the age of 92. Establishing Worth Publishers in 1966, Bob's passion for education and unwavering respect for the potential of authors became the bedrock of a publishing house renowned for fostering talent and delivering landmark textbooks for the undergraduate education market.
Bob's dedication to author development was marked by his collaboration with some of the most significant names in educational publishing. His sharp instincts led to the signing of authors whose works would go on to change their respective fields, including developmental psychologist Kathleen Berger; economist Greg Mankiw, economist and future Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman; biochemist Albert L. Lehninger; and David G. Myers, whose signing shaped the course of Worth Publishers and the broader educational publishing industry, and whose textbooks have been the gold standard in introductory psychology for nearly forty years, inspiring generations of undergraduates in the field. Bob's recruitment of David Myers, conveyed in the letter excerpted below, remains a timeless source of inspiration and joy for me:
Dear David: I have attempted to maintain a sober, calm, objective, businesslike attitude about the possibility of your writing an introductory psychology textbook to be published by us.
Unfortunately, my limbic system doesn’t seem to be under any sort of control. In fact, ever since your visit, I have been having ecstatic visions of our complete dominance of the introductory psychology market. I cannot even convince myself that these are dreams of glory; they seem like perfectly rational estimates of the likely result of our collaboration. I do hope that we can attempt to translate these visions into reality. It would be such terrific fun!
Bob's affection for his authors was boundless, seeing them as integral partners of a publishing house committed to reshaping how undergraduate education was taught in their respective fields. His discerning approach required an uncommon ability to identify talent and untapped potential often overlooked by others. Emblematic in this pursuit was Helena Curtis’ Biology, a pioneering introduction to biology notable for being the first written by a woman and a non-academic science writer, and immortalized in Helena Curtis's own memorial:
In 1966, Helena Curtis was signed to a contract for a college biology textbook by Worth Publishers. The idea of a textbook written not by an academic, but by a professional science writer, in consultation with biology experts, was at that time revolutionary and greeted with skepticism. However, when Curtis’s Biology was published in 1968, it received a laudatory review in Scientific American by Nobel Laureate Salvador Luria.
Bob's enduring legacy in the publishing community are the works that continue to influence and support the education of millions of students each year. However, those privileged to have known him will fondly recall the deep, meaningful relationships he cultivated with editors, authors, and colleagues that championed his books.
I had the honor of joining what is now Macmillan Learning in 2000, after Bob had passed the reins of Worth Publishers. I learned about Bob from long-standing members of the sales team; it was their memories that framed each chance interaction I had with Bob over the years, most commonly when he would make a visit to the office to say hello to one of our long-standing authors. In the days ahead, we will share stories of Bob, seek out colleagues who have retired or are no longer at Worth to hear more of them, and remember in each instance that Bob’s was a life worth celebrating.
Executive Vice President & General Manager