How Canada’s first psychology department arose at McGill University

A new piece in Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne by Jennifer Bazar and Christopher Green will interest AHP readers: “How Canada’s first psychology department arose at McGill University.” Abstract:

Canada’s first official department of psychology came into existence at Montréal’s McGill University in 1924. First chartered more than a century before, in 1821, McGill started teaching courses in “psychology” as early as 1871. Although McGill contributed two very early members to the American Psychological Association—John C. Murray and T. Wesley Mills—it was not until 1910 that it housed an experimental psychology laboratory, in the Department of Philosophy, opened by William D. Tait. Tait and two philosophers, William Caldwell and J. W. A. Hickson, worked contentiously side-by-side until the administration agreed, in 1924, to an autonomous Department of Psychology under Tait’s leadership. Although the University of Toronto had founded a psychology laboratory two decades earlier than McGill had, the Montréal school founded a Department of Psychology, the first in Canada, more than two years before Toronto did. This article investigates the dynamics—intellectual, political, and personal—that led McGill to establish the first psychology department, as well as its early development, prior to the arrival of Donald Hebb. As is often the case with institutional change, the decision to separate psychology from philosophy was driven as much by the administration’s desire to resolve long-standing fractious personal relations among the faculty as it was by any intellectual or disciplinary issues.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.