John P. Zubek was born in Trnovec, Czechoslovakia on 10 March 1925. He immigrated to Canada at the age of five with his parents. After his early education in Grand Forks, British Columbia. Zubek completed his B.A.in Psychology in 1946 graduating with first class honours from the University of British Columbia. In 1948 he received a Masters in Social Psychology from the University of Toronto. From 1948-1950 Zubek was an instructor in Psychology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from where he received his Ph.D. in 1950 graduating Phi Betta Kappa.
Zubek then joined the Psychology Department at McGill University in the fall of 1950. During his three years at McGill as assistant professor, Zubek published eight articles on such widely divergent topics as the cerebral cortex and locomotor activity in rats to a genetic of Doukhobors' attitudes.
In 1953 Zubek joined the faculty of the University of Manitoba as a full professor and chairman of the Department of Psychology, a post he held for the next eight years. In 1954 he and P.A. Solberg coauthored the book Human Development (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1954) an advanced textbook treating the development and decline, throughout the lifespan, of the nervous system, glands, physical structure, senses, learning and thinking processes, emotions, beliefs, attitudes and personality. The following year he authored the Laboratory Manual in Introductory Psychology, a textbook consisting of 25 student-oriented experiments. He also published fifteen articles. In 1959 he added Directorship of the Sensory Deprivation Laboratory to his workload.
Dr. Zubek did not limit his activities to the University of Manitoba. He served two terms as a member of the Associate Committee on Experimental Psychology for the National Research Council of Canada from 1955 to 1961. He also served two terms, from 1958 to 1964 as a member of the Human Resources Scientific Advisory Committee for the Defense Research Board of Canada. Zubek was a member of Directors of the Canadian Psychological Association from 1956 to 1958.
In 1961 Dr. Zubek turned his attention solely to research. His new position as Research Professor reduced his teaching load to only one class. In the next thirteen years he wrote or edited four more books. One of them, Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1969), consists of chapters written by eight of the leading investigators in the field. The book gives some 1,300 references to articles in journals and government technical reports, many of which were published in foreign languages. Zubek also published another 50 articles during this period, many of which were published in foreign journals.
Zubek and his associates received prestigious research grants to further their work. The National Research Council provided six years of funding (1968-1974) at $13,200 per annum for research on the effects of prolonged sensory deprivation. The same funding body provided a development grant of $110,000 in 1968 to establish a centre for research in sensory deprivation at the University of Manitoba. Furthermore, from 1959 to 1974 the Defence Research Board provided operating grants of $15,000-$21,000 for additional sensory deprivation research. Between 1964-1967 Zubek received $100,000 from the United States Public Health Service.
Dr. Zubek was made a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association in 1967. He was the recipient of the Clifford J. Robson Distinguished Psychologist in Manitoba Award bestowed by the Manitoba Psychological Society in 1973. The same year, Manitoba's research in sensory deprivation was listed among the 30 major achievements in Canadian science and technology.
Dr. Zubek died suddenly on 22 August 22 1974 at the age of 49. His academic legacy includes six books and over eighty articles. He helped to establish two awards for academic excellence. The John J. Zubek Award, named for his father, has been presented to younger staff members at the University of Manitoba for excellence in research and scholarship. The purpose of the award is to accord public recognition and provide encouragement to younger professors who show promise of gaining prominence in their fields. Zubek was also responsible for establishing the Clifford J. Robson Award in the memory of his friend Dr. Robson from the Department of Psychology at the University of Winnipeg. The award is for teaching excellence at the University of Winnipeg.