Tag Archives: Wundt

Space. The final frontier…for psychologists?

It turns out that asteroid “635 Vundtia” was named for none other than psychology’s own Wilhelm Wundt, a man perhaps best known among students in History of Psychology for his opening of a psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879. 635 Vundtia was discovered in 1907 and named by Karl Lohnert – an astronomer AND an experimental psychologist.

A paper by Lutz D. Schmadel and Susanne Guski-Leinwand in Acta Historica Astronomiae (vol. 43, pp. 335-350) provides a biography of Lohert and his discovery. The abstract reads:

Karl Julius Lohnert (1885-1944) with his double biography as astronomer and psychologist is hardly known in both fields. As a student of astronomy in Heidelberg, Lohnert discovered a couple of minor planets and he dedicated one to his PhD supervisor, the famous Leipzig professor for philosophy, Wilhelm Wundt. This connection is discussed for the first time almost one century after the naming of (635) Vundtia. The paper elucidates some biographical stations of Lohnert.

The news that an asteroid had been named for Wundt (my thanks to Ludy Benjamin of Texas A&M University for this info!) made me wonder what else in the sky was named for psychologists – turns out there are several others who have been commemorated in the same way:

  • 11518 Adler is named for Alfred Adler
  • 4343 Freud is named for Sigmund Freud
  • 1007 Pawlowia is named for Ivan Pavlov
  • Wikipedia actually has a great list by discipline of the names of those for whom minor planets have been named that can be found here (although I note that psychology is lumped under “other science”)

New Translation of Lange on Classics

A new English translation of Ludwig Lange’s important German language work “Neue Experimente über den Vorgang der einfachen Reaction auf Sinneseindrücke” has been posted to the “Classics in the History of Psychology” website. It was in this work that the distinction between sensory and muscular reections was first proposed, eventually leading to much debate among American psychologists over the veracity of mental types. Christopher Green, the administer of the “Classics” website, writes,

I am very pleased to announce that I have recently posted to the “Classics in the History of Psychology” website a new English translation, by David D. Lee, of Ludwig Lange’s 1888 article “Neue Experimente über den Vorgang der einfachen Reaction auf Sinneseindrücke” [New experiments on the process of the simple reaction to sensory impressions], first published in Philosophische Studien, 4, 479-510.

This particular article, by Wundt’s future assistant, is significant because it attempted to resolve apparent anomalies in the reaction time data then being generated in Wundt’s Leipzig laboratory by claiming the discovery of  distinct “sensory” and “muscular” types of reaction.  In doing so, Lange unintentionally set off a debate among Cattell, Baldwin, Titchener, Angell and others that ultimately led to the founding of the American school of Functionalism.

David kindly provided his considerable translation skills gratis for this project, and I am deeply indebted to him for this generous contribution. It extends further the aim of “Classics” project, which was to make primary source material easily and freely available to the many students and researchers working on the psychology’s history.

Early Wundt on Emotion

Wilhelm WundtThe April 2009 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences includes an article by Claudia Wassmann (U. Paris I) entitled “Physiological Optics, Cognition and Emotion: A Novel Look at the Early Work of Wilhelm Wundt.” Although most historical attention has focused on Wundt’s 1874 textbook (Principles of Physiological Psychology) and his later work at Leipzig, Wassman shines a light on his earlier (still untranslated)* book, Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology, written when he was still an assistant in the Heidelberg physiological laboratory of Helmholtz and Du Bois Reymond. There, he discussed a theory of emotion that, Wassman argues, grounded the debate that led up to William James’ famous 1884 theory of emotion. The abstract of the article is below. Continue reading Early Wundt on Emotion

Early Wundt & Harlem Mental Health in JHMAS

The most recent issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences contains two articles that will be of interest to historians of psychology.

“’A Fine New Child’: The Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic and Harlem’s African American Communities, 1946–1958″ by Dennis Doyle and “Physiological Optics, Cognition and Emotion: A Novel Look at the Early Work of Wilhelm Wundt” by Claudia Wassmann.  Abstracts for both are below.

“’A Fine New Child’: The Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic and Harlem’s African American Communities, 1946–1958″ by Dennis Doyle

Dennis DoyleIn 1946, the Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic, a small outpatient facility run by volunteers, opened in Central Harlem. Lafargue lasted for almost thirteen years, providing the underserved black Harlemites with what might be later termed community mental health care. This article explores what the clinic meant to the African Americans who created, supported, and made use of its community-based services. While white humanitarianism often played a large role in creating such institutions, this clinic would not have existed without the help and support of both Harlem’s black left and the increasingly activist African American church of the “long civil rights era.” Not only did St. Philip’s Church provide a physical home for the clinic, it also helped to integrate it into black Harlem, creating a patient community. Continue reading Early Wundt & Harlem Mental Health in JHMAS

Leipzig departmental history translated

As part of the University of Leipzig’s 600th anniversary celebrations, Julika Habekost has translated the departmental history from the original German into English.  The result provides an insider’s perspective on the standard institutional history from one of Psychology’s earliest hubs.

Experimental research on the overlapping disciplines of psychology and physiology commenced because of Ernst Heinrich Weber (1795-1878), at the University of Leipzig. Since Weber’s studies laid the foundation for the evolution of experimental psychology, Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) would refer to Weber as the “Founding Father of Psychology.” Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), who had been a member of the Department of Philosophy since 1823, lectured on moral and natural philosophy starting in 1846, on psychophysics in 1857 and on experimental aesthetics in 1864. He had seen his concept of psychophysiological law confirmed in Weber’s discovery that differential change in perception was constant. Fechner coined the term Weber-Fechner law and acknowledged thereby Weber’s contribution to the foundation of psychophysics.

The middle section then focusses on Wundt and his students.  The final section outlines the history of the department after Wundt’s departure in 1917.

Since I do not read German, it would be nice to hear from a reader who can compare the new translation with the original.  Specifically, is there anything missing in the English version?  (Are there any errors?)

Sorry, Wrong James

William JamesHave a look at this webpage (of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations). Check out the entry for the date 03/07/2007. It announces the winner of the biennial Wilhelm Wundt-William James award, jointly administered by the EFPA and the American Psychological Foundation.

Notice something amiss? Look closely at the photo (not here, but on the EFPA page). Yes, the person on the left hand side is Wilhelm Wundt. But the person the right hand side is decidedly not William James. It is, instead, Henry James Sr., Continue reading Sorry, Wrong James

Anniversary of James McKeen Cattell’s PhD

James McKeen CattellIt was on this day in 1886 James McKeen Cattell passed his doctoral examinations at the University of Leipzig. Cattell was the first American to graduate under Wilhelm Wundt’s supervision. G. Stanley Hall, however, had earlier spent time learning and working in the famed experimental psychology research laboratory — the first of its kind in the world — after earning a PhD at Harvard under William James. Ironically, Cattell had begun his graduate work under Hall’s supervision at Johns Hopkins, but left Baltimore for Leipzig after a dispute with Hall over his fellowship, which had been withdrawn and given to another Johns Hopkins student, John Dewey. Continue reading Anniversary of James McKeen Cattell’s PhD

64 Years Since Wundt’s Lab Destroyed

Wundt's laboratory, ca. 1910According to the “Today in the History of Psychology” website, on this day in 1943 allied bombing over Leipzig, Germany destroyed Wilhelm Wundt‘s psychology laboratory. Wundt’s lab, first opened in 1879, is usually cited as the first laboratory in the world to have been dedicated specifically to experimental psychological research. It was the research site of over 100 doctoral dissertations, including those of Germans Hugo Münsterberg, Oswald Külpe, and Emil Kraepelin; Continue reading 64 Years Since Wundt’s Lab Destroyed