G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) was a young teacher at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, during the early 1870s when he first read Wundt's Principles of Physiological Psychology. As a student of both Wundt and Helmholtz, and later as a friend to William James, Hall received the first Ph.D. in psychology to be granted in the United States. Although he became known as much for his work in education as he was known for psychology, he remained devoted to both. He also followed in the footsteps on Wundt and James, establishing experimental labs at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland in 1883, which was second only to James' lab in America, and at Clark University in Massachusetts in 1889.
Granville Stanley Hall was born on February 1, 1844, in the small farming town of Ashfield, Massachusetts. He was the son of Granville Bascom and Abigail Beals Hall. When Hall graduated from Williams College in 1867, he went to the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. A grant of $500 the following year gave him the means to travel to Bonn and Berlin, where he studied theology and philosophy. From 1871 until 1876, he taught at Antioch before moving on to Harvard to complete his Ph.D. on the muscular perception of space. When he returned to Germany to study with the famous physiologists Wundt and Helmholtz, he gathered enough knowledge to pursue his own path in psychology.
Hall joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins, where in 1883 he established his own laboratory. His facility was regarded as the first working psychology lab in the United States—James's lab at Harvard was considered a teaching laboratory. In 1887 he began to publish the American Journal of Psychology. Hall founded other journals as well, including the Pedagogical Seminary, known currently as the Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1891; the Journal of Applied Psychology, 1915; and, the Journal of Religious Psychology, which he published between 1904 and 1914. One of his most impressive acts was founding the American Psychological Association on July 8, 1892, when he invited 26 of the world's leading psychologists to attend a meeting. Only James and Dewey were unable to attend. By the end of the twentieth century, more than half of the world's psychologists belonged to the association.
As a pioneer in developmental psychology, also known as genetic psychology, Hall had been influenced by British naturalist Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. Hall consequently began to reflect on childhood development, and he played a key role in the child study movement that grew for years in the United States. The movement did not last in that form, but it did provide the basis for the idea that studying children was beneficial and established the need for empirical work in that field. In 1909, Hall invited the famous psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung to lecture at the school. At the time of this conference, even the professional community regarded the field with suspicion. Hall was the pioneer who introduced psychoanalysis to America.
His interest in the psychology of religion led Hall to publish Jesus, the Christ, in the Light of Psychology, in 1917. His other major works included, Adolescence: Its Psychology and its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education, published in 1904; and Life and Confessions of a Psychologist, in 1923.
Hall was married to Cornelia Fisher in September 1879; and to Florence E. Smith, in July 1899. He had two children. He died on April 24, 1924, in Worcester, Massachusetts.
G. Stanley Hall. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)
G. Stanley Hall. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)
William James, who had also studied under Helmholtz and would remain at odds with Wundt's approach, set up a similar lab the same year at Harvard. By 1879, with his experimental laboratory fully established, Wundt would mentor his first American graduate assistant, G. Stanley Hall, and a whole new era would begin in the study of psychology (see accompanying sidebar).
Students and psychologists from all over the world worked in Wundt's lab and eventually returned to their home countries to set up their own. A movement had begun that continues today. By the winter term of 1883-84, Wundt's laboratory had gained official status as an institute of the Department of Philosophy at Leipzig. Among his other contributions to his profession, Wundt founded the journal, Philosophische Studien, as a publication venue for the results of his experiments and those of his students. In 1903 the name of the journal was changed to Psychologische Studien, reflecting the new climate of acceptance for the serious scientific study of psychology.
In addition to his methodical research methods, Wundt was known for his quiet demeanor and diligence. When lecturing, for example, he could go on for more than two hours without using notes or pausing for questions. During the school year of 1889-90, he was elected to the post of vice-chancellor of the university, and in 1902 he was made an honorary citizen of Leipzig. In 1915 he was named a professor emeritus. Social and cultural psychology eventually occupied much of Wundt's time and study in his later years. He did not believe that his experimental methods were applicable to most areas of psychology. This shift in direction returned him to his first loves of literature, arts, and the ritualistic practices common among various ethnic and cultural groups that he believed revealed the true essence of cultural psychology. He published his 10-volume series, Volkerpsychologie (Folk Psychology), between 1900 and 1920.
Wundt married Sophie Mau in 1872. The couple had one daughter, Eleonore, who served as her father's personal secretary and assistant. She continued to preside over his work even after his death, and she also provided assistance to scholars who were studying her father's work. She was important enough, in fact, that when Chiba Tanenari, the first chair of psychology at Tokoku Imperial University, began to purchase the Wundt collection, he visited with Eleonore in Groabothen, the small town near Leipzig where the Wundts had made their home. Most of Wundt's personal collection remains in Japan today, due to the skillful negotiations and financing of Tanenari and his Japanese colleagues, who respected Wundt's work immensely and had elevated him to an enormous stature.
Wundt finished writing his autobiography, Erlebtes and Erkanntes, in 1920, not long before he died. In death as in life, Wundt would continue to have his disciples as well as his detractors. James had said that he was "only a rather ordinary man who has worked up certain things uncommonly well." Biographers Rieber and Robinson offered their own perspective on the importance of studying Wundt nearly a hundred years after his death.
The contributors to this collection do not pretend to cover every aspect of the vast work and complex influence of Wundt on psychology. We also do not speak with one voice. In fact, if you do not find argument and provocation in these pages, then we have failed in our task. Early experimental psychology was a complex enterprise, and the difficulties in interpreting and understanding it do not seem to lessen over time. So we agree on many things, disagree on quite a few things, and discuss all our ideas and readings in a spirit not only of mutual respect, but of outright enthusiasm and love for the productive argument.
Was this article helpful?