Philosophy, Law, Theology
Mencke was born in 1644 in Oldenburg, attended gymnasium at Bremen, and received 3 advanced degrees at Leipzig University: a Baccalaurat in 1662, a Magister in 1664, and a Ph.D. in 1668. It remains unclear who his official advisor was, since he worked on several independent dissertations, and he worked with a slew of professors, including the theologians Friedrich Rappolt, Christian Chemnitz, Hieronymus Kromaier, and Johann Adam Scherzer, and the philosophers Jakob Thomasius and Valentin Alberti. After his schooling he eventually joined the faculty at Leipzig as Professor of Philosophy, and later served as Dean of the Philosophy faculty, and as Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University. Little is known of Mencke's actual work, and he seems to have spent most of his scholarly energies editing and republishing others' work. He died in 1707 of a stroke.
His importance to the scientific milieu was inestimable, however, since in cooperation with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz he founded and served as chief editor for the first academic journal in Germany, Acta Eruditorum, in 1682. Mencke and Leibniz's original publication of the journal was supported by the Duke of Saxony. This proved to be one of the most important scientific journals of the Enlightenment, and published papers by most leading scholars and scientists of the day -- indeed, Volume 1 of the journal alone included articles by Boyle, Leeuwenhoek, Leibniz, and Johann Bernoulli. Leibniz eventually published more than 50 of his papers in Acta Eruditorum, including several relating to his dispute with Isaac Newton about the origin of the calculus. (For example, the 1714 volume was famous for displaying the alterations made in the 1713 revised edition of Newton's 1687 Principia -- the goal being to show gaps in Newton's thinking, and how he was trying to rewrite history to better compete with Leibniz.) All articles in the journal were in Latin. Copies of the journal are relatively rare today, though several exist in old libraries in Europe. (Yale has copies on Microform.) Here is the title page from the first volume of the journal, from 1682.
With Mencke, this lineage must end -- or begin, depending on your perspective -- for two reasons. First, it remains unclear who Mencke's Ph.D. advisor was (though I have discovered the identities of several mentors with whom he worked). Second, my (rather obscure) original goal in producing this lineage was to work my way back to the time discussed in Neal Stephenson's recent books The Baroque Cycle (highly recommended!). With Mencke this goal is met, since Leibniz is a major character in those books -- and indeed, since Mencke himself is mentioned (albeit as "that other chap", along w/ a mention of Acta Eruditorum) on p. 615 of The System of the World.
(Note: Mencke should not be confused with his grandson, Friedrich Otto Mencke.)
Johann Christoph Wichmannshausen
Wichmannshausen, in addition to being Otto Mencke's student, was also his son-in-law. Though his thesis was on ethics, he was primarily a philologist and an orientalist. Toward the end of his life he was a Professor at the University of Wittenberg.
Christian August Hausen
Hausen, C. A. (1746) Novi profectvs in historia electricitatis. Leipzig: Gottsched Megjelenes.
Hausen, born in Dresden, was a Professor of Mathematics at Leipzig University, and is best known for his work on electricity. In 1743 he built the first machine to generate electricity via friction. (The device generated static electricity by means of the friction formed by a rotating glass disc. The image provided for Hausen above alleges to depict a public demonstration of his device.) Here is an image of the cover page of his 1746 book, Novi profectvs in historia electricitatis. Hausen is one of 3 academic ancestors listed on this page to have a crater on the Moon named after him (the others being Kästner and Helmholtz).
(Note: Hausen often appears to be confused with his father -- also named Christian August Hausen -- who was born in 1663, received a doctorate in theology in 1683 under Christian Siber, and died in 1733. The son was a mathematician from the start of his training.)
Abraham Gotthelf Kästner
History of mathematics, Philosophy of mathematics, Applications of mathematics to optics and astronomy
3 Sample Publications
Kästner, A. G. (1800) Geschichte der mathematik, Vol IV. Gottingen.
Kästner, A. G. (1787) Vita Kestneri. Leipzig.
Kästner, A. G. (1786) Anfangsgrunde der arithmetik, geometrie, trigonometrie, und perspektiv. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht: Göttingen.
Kästner was a leading German mathematician of his day, especially well known for writing prominent textbooks and encyclopedias. He originally intended to study the philosophy of law, following his father (a Professor of Jurisprudence), but he ended up focusing on mathematics. He was awarded his Ph.D. in Leipzig in 1739 and immediately began to teach there as a 'Privatdozent'. He was promoted in 1746 to 'Extraordinary Professor', and in 1756 he was appointed as Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Göttingen. In Göttingen he was the teacher of Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss -- widely acknowedged as the most brilliant mathematician who ever lived -- but it is reported that Gauss didn't attend many of Kästner's lectures, and often ridiculed him. Kästner wrote long volumes on philosophy and applications of mathematics, and was the first mathematician to write a work entirely devoted to the history of mathematics. He was also the first to define trigonometric functions as pure numbers, rather than ratios in a triangle. He received many honors during his career, and was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1789. Beyond mathematics, he was also known throughout German literature for his epigrams.
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben
Naturalism, Veterinary science and training
Erxleben, J. (1777). Anfangsgrunde der naturlehre and systema regni animalis. Lepsiae: Impensis Weygandianis.
Erxleben is regarded as the founder of modern veterinary science and training in Germany, and was Professor of Physics and Veterinary medicine at the George-August University of Göttingen (where he also began his graduate studies in 1763, and earned a Ph.D. in 1775). In 1775 he also took over Editorship of the Göttingen Taschen Calendars. He acquired additional training in veterinary medicine by visiting the Netherlands and France, and the horse-expert Johann Babtist von Sind. He was also an avid naturalist, and is credited with the first descriptions of many species, including the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), the harp seal (Phoca groenlandica), and the chital (axis axis). He also originally described the (very cute) fisher (Martes pennanti), originally naming it Mustela pennanti after Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant, but this name was later overridden. Erxleben was married to Dorothea Christiane Erxleben, who was the first woman in Germany -- and the 2nd in the entire world -- to be trained and granted the official title of medical doctor (in 1754 at the University of Halle). (Women weren't allowed to study medicine at that time, of course, but she appealed directly to the Prussian King Frederick the Great in 1741 to gain permission to do so.) In lieu of more information about Erxleben, here is his signature and silhouette.
(Note that Erxleben received a Ph.D., not an M.D., but that it would be another 124 years before a member of this lineage [Edward Wheeler Scripture] again received a Ph.D. [for work with Wilhelm Wundt].)
Christian Ehrenfried von Weigel
Chemistry, Medicine, Botany, Mineralogy
3 Sample Publications
Weigel, C. (1777). Grundriss der reinen und angewandten chemie. Greifswald.
Weigel, C. (1773). Observationes chemicae et mineralogicae.
Weigel, C. (1769). Flora pomerano-rugica. Leipzig.
German by birth, Weigel joined the faculty of the University of Greifswald in 1774 as Professor of Chemistry, Pharmacy, Botany, and Mineralogy. He obtained the "von" in his name in 1806 when he was ennobled, and two years later he became the personal physician of the Swedish royal house. He published many books -- on many topics -- during his day, and while exploring this literature I have noticed that the covers of books in his time were rather more ornate than those today. Weigel was also an inventor, and developed the counter-flow condenser in 1771, which was later improved on by Justus Liebig and came to be known as the Liebig condenser (still used in a very similar form today to distill vodka). This figure of the condenser apparatus appeared in Weigel's 1771 dissertation. Because of this invention, I believe that Weigel is my only academic ancestor to appear on a Vodka.com webpage. He was also an avid naturalist, and has an entire Genus named after him: Weigela, a type of "shrubby" eastern Asian plant, of the honeysuckle family. Because of this genus, I think Weigel is also my only academic ancestor to have his full name appear on a MarthaStewart.com webpage.
(Note: I have finally recently obtained a series of 1982 articles in the journal Pharmazie on Weigel, which discuss "his origins and development", "his importance in the development of pharmaceutical science", "Weigel as researcher and author of scientific works", and "Weigel as a university instructor". If you happen to read German and would like to translate some of these for me, please let me know!)
Karl Asmund Rudolphi
Botany, Physiology, Parasitology, Zoology, Helminthology, Anatomy of nerves, Plant growth, Naturalism
3 Sample Publications
Rudolphi, K. A. (1821). Grundriss der physiologie. Reimer: Berlin.
Rudolphi, K. A. (1819). Entozoorum synopsis cui accedunt mantissima duplex et indices locupletissima. Sumptibus Augusti Rucker. Berlin: Germany.
Rudolphi, K. A. (1808). Enterozoorum sive vermium intestinalium historia naturalis.
Rudolphi, the "father of helminthology" (the study of worms, especially parasitic worms) grew up in Sweden, and was appointed Professor of Anatomy at Greifswald University immediately following his MD in 1795. Here is a copy of the first page of Rudolphi's medical dissertation. He stayed at Greifswald until 1810 when he moved to become Professor and Director of the Institute of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Berlin -- a position he held until his death, when it was taken over by his student Johannes Müller (see below). (This Institute, and its associated museum, eventually grew into a scientific powerhouse, though in Rudolphi's time it was "located in a gloomy building in the inner city".) During his 22 years at Berlin, he also founded the Berlin Zoological Museum and served as rector of the University.
Rudolphi conducted research across many fields (including botany, zoology, anatomy, and physiology), and is perhaps best known as one of the earliest proponents of the view that plants are built out of cells. In 1804 he shared a major prize from the Royal Society of Science in Gottingen for demonstrating that adjoining cells had their own cell walls, rather than sharing them. His initial scientific publication (1808, see reference above) contained the first ever description of the Nematoda (roundworm). His second publication cited above (from 1819) was the first time that the life cycle was described in detail for nematodes which are parasitic on humans (including one which currently infects roughly 1/4 of the world's population). In his later work, he argued that humanity comprised a genus that should be further divided into other species (instead of a species into races), thus fueling racism in several German and Scandinavian countries. His overall approach always emphasized methodological rigor, and he was famously enthusiastic about the scientific study of anatomy. His greatest student Müller (see below) wrote of him: "I have enjoyed his instruction, his advice, his fatherly friendship for a year and a half; he in part inspired my love for anatomy, and settled my steadfast affection upon it for all time." Rudolphi is remembered today in some specific ways (such as being commemorated in the annually awarded Karl Asmund Rudolphi Medal of the Parasitological Society) and more generally for his legacy as a naturalist (having named species such as the Blue Bird of Paradise, Paradisea rudolphi, and the Sei Whale which for years was known as Rudolphi's Whale). He died in 1832, the same year that his academic great-grandson Wilhelm Wundt (see below) was born.
(Note that Rudolphi appears to my youngest academic ancestor who did not study human perception in any way. All of the others below -- Müller, Helmholtz, Wundt, Scripture, Seashore, Tiffin, Lewis, Shephard, Agnew, and Pylyshyn -- studied either visual or auditory perception or psychophysics at some point.)
Johannes Peter Müller
Vision and optics, Physiology, Comparative anatomy, Biochemistry, Developmental embryology, Voice and speech, Hearing, Hallucinations, Endocrinology, Ichthyology
3 Sample Publications
Müller, J. (1838). Handbuch der physiologie des menschen (Elements of physiology), Volume 2. Coblenz: Holscher.
Müller, J. (1826). Uber die phantastischen gesichtserscheinungen (On fantastic visual appearances). Coblenz: Holscher.
Müller, J. (1826). Zur vergleichenden physiologie des gesichtssinnes des menschen und der thiere, nebst einem versuch uber die bewegung der augen und uber den menschlichen blick (On comparative physiology of the visual sense of man and animals, together with an experiment on the motion of the eyes and on human gaze). Leipzig: Cnobloch.
Müller was arguably the most important physiologist of his time, and synthesized an incredible array of scientific ideas and results into a cohesive system. He was born in Coblenz and (after narrowly averting a career in theology) entered the Friedrich-Wilhelm University in Bonn in 1819, working for a time with Phillip von Walther. At this time the University at Bonn was a bulwark of 'natural philosophy', which maintained that the 'spirit of man' and his powers of observation were more important than laboratory experimentation. Nevertheless, Müller excelled, and won an award in 1822 for his research on breathing in the fetus. He received his MD later that year, after which he was awarded a stipend to head to the Institute of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Berlin, to study with Karl Rudolphi. Rudolphi's group at Berlin, unlike the professors at Bonn, had no lack of enthusiasm for experimental work, and they placed great stress on methodological rigor (though Müller also took lectures with Hegel there). As a result, this year in Berlin was probably Müller's most important educational experience. In 1824 Müller returned to join the faculty at Bonn, rising to more prominent professorships there in 1826 and again in 1830. He made a start at practicing medicine, but one of his first patients (who was also a close friend) died, and this turned him off to clinical practice. In 1833 he left Bonn and headed back to Berlin to assume Rudolphi's old position as Chair of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Berlin (a position he "skillfully negotiated" for following Rudolphi's death). He eventually earned the greatest scientific laurels of his day, including the Copley Medal (the highest award bestowed by the Royal Society) in 1854, and being named Editor of Archiv fur Anatomie und Physiologie. He died from an opium overdose, after nearly dying years earlier in a shipwreck. After his death, the Powers That Be at the University of Berlin thought his scope and vision were so great that they essentially split up his position, creating three new professorships (in pathology, anatomy, and physiology) to replace him.
Müller's most prominent publication was probably his multi-volume Physiologie des Menschen, published between 1833 and 1840 (translated by William Baly into English in 1842 as 'Elements of Physiology'). This book was a landmark in the field, and for the first time brought together physiology with human and comparative anatomy, clinical practice, as well as aspects of chemistry and physics. For the rest of the 19th century, this was thus the textbook in physiology. He also did notable work in many other areas, including vision, anatomy, developmental embryology, endocrinology, and the study of speech and hearing. He was the first to use the microscope in pathology. Perhaps his most notable work on vision science was his work on visual hallucinations. He frequently hallucinated himself as a child, 'seeing' "images of people moving against the white wall of the house opposite to his". His later work on this topic -- published in 1826 as a book with the wonderful title On fantastic visual appearances (Uber die phantastischen gesichtserscheinungen), is considered a landmark in the psychiatric study of hallucinations, and articles about its importance continue to be published today. His greatest failing, in hindsight, was his unceasing support of vitalism -- the view that it was impossible to reduce living processes to mechanical laws. This belief -- perhaps a holdover from his early education at Bonn -- was later proven wrong in many ways, including in work by his greatest student, Helmholtz (see below).
Müller's most famous and lasting scientific accomplishment was his formulation of the doctrine of specific nerve energy, which maintained that perceptual experience was the result of the nature of the stimulated sense-organ rather than the nature of the stimulation, per se. In his words: "[T]he same cause, such as electricity, can simultaneously affect all sensory organs, since they are all sensitive to it; and yet, every sensory nerve reacts to it differently; one nerve perceives it as light, another hears its sound, another one smells it; another tastes the electricity, and another one feels it as pain and shock.... [S]ensation is not the conduction of a quality or state of external bodies to consciousness, but the conduction of a quality or state of our nerves to consciousness, excited by an external cause." (As noted much later by Boring, this doctrine was not wholly original to Müller, but it was he who synthesized all of the evidence for it, and brought it to the attention of the scientific world.)
Müller had a reputation as a first-rate mentor, and gathered together many of the best students in all of Germany. (For a book-length discussion, see Laura Otis' 2007 book, Müller's Lab.) He was considered a dedicated and supportive teacher, even by students who could not accept this own approach. This was certainly true of Helmholtz (see below), who rejected vitalism entirely. In an autobiographical sketch late in his career, Helmholtz had this to say about Müller: "As respects the critical questions about the nature of life, Müller still struggled between the older -- essentially the metaphysical -- view and the naturalistic one, which was then being developed; but the conviction that nothing could replace the knowledge of facts forced itself upon him with increasing certainty, and it may be that his influence over his students was the greater because he so struggled" (Helmholtz, 1898). I cannot help note in passing that it is tempting to see in this dispute between Helmholtz and Müller the same deep tension between different ways of studying the world and the mind which later caused Edward Wheeler Scripture and George Trumbull Ladd to fight so viciously (as described below). Müller worked with many famous students, of which the most famous was Helmholtz, and he also worked for a short time directly with Wilhelm Wundt (see below). Personally, Müller suffered from severe insomnia, and tended to do most of his work late at night (a great comfort to his academic great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson). He was also notoriously fastidious and obsessive about his work (no comment).
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz
Perception, Physiology, Optics, Electrodynamics, Mathematics, Acoustics, Meteorology, Hydrodynamics, and most other areas of science
3 Sample Publications
Helmholtz, H. (1867). Handbuch der physiologischen optik (Handbook of physiological optics). Leipzig: Leopold Voss.
Helmholtz, H. (1863). Physiologische grundlage fur die theorie der musik (On the sensation of tone as a physiological basis for the theory of music. Braunschweig: Vieweg.
Helmholtz, H. (1847). Uber die erhaltung der kraft (On the conservation of force). Paper read to the Physical Society of Berlin, 7/23/47.
Helmholtz was an incredible polymath, and one of the 19th century's greatest scientists. He achieved the height of scientific accomplishment in his generation, and was roughly equally well known in different stages of his career as a biologist, physicist, physician, philosopher, and mathematician. Of his many accomplishments, he is perhaps best known for producing the first mathematical formulation of the Law of Conservation of Energy. He read this paper to the Physical Society of Berlin in 1847, but the older members in the society deemed it too speculative and rejected it for publication in Annalen der Physik -- which just goes to show that having a paper rejected doesn't mean it won't stand the test of time as an icon of scientific discovery through the ages.
Helmholtz was confined to his home in Potsdam for his first seven years due to "delicate health", but was educated in philosophy and mathematics by his father, and eventually graduated from the Potsdam Gymnasium. In 1838 he headed to the Friedrich Wilhelm Medical Institute in Berlin for a medical degree -- not because he was especially interested in medicine, but because this was the only ready route to a free advanced education. During his schooling in Berlin he conducted his work under the mentorship of Johannes Müller, considered the greatest physiologist of his day. He earned his MD in 1843 at the age of 22 (for work with Müller on the connection between nerve fibers and nerve cells), and then realized that his medical education wasn't quite free after all, but rather obligated him to serve in the Prussian army for 7 years. His army duties were few, however, and so he set up a makeshift laboratory in the barracks for his regiment in Potsdam, and soon thereafter produced his famous paper on the Law of Conservation of Energy. This work brought him early scientific fame, and he was released early from his army duties in order to be allowed (in 1848) to take up a position as Assistant to the Anatomical Museum and Lecturer to the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. He moved the next year to Konigsberg in East Prussia to become Assistant Professor and Director of the Physiological Institute. The harsh climate in Konigsberg didn't agree with his wife's health, however, and so he moved in 1855 to become Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Bonn, and then moved again in 1858 to the University of Heidelberg. It was during the next 13 years in Heidelberg that he worked with Wilhelm Wundt (see below) as his assistant. In 1871 he moved back to Berlin to become Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin, and in 1888 was appointed as the first Director of the Physico-Technical Institute, the post he held until his death. He eventually received most of the prominent awards available in science, including election not only to the Royal Society (in 1860, with the Copley Medal awarded in 1873) but to the royalty itself (which came with an inheritable peerage suffix "von", bestowed in 1882 by Kaiser Wilhelm I). In 1971 (the 150th anniversary of his birth, and the year his academic great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson was born), Germany issued his likeness on a stamp.
Beyond his work on the Law of Conservation of Energy, he also did prominent and internationally renowned work on many other topics in physics, ranging from the hydrodynamics of vortex motion to the formulation of the double-charged layer at an electrode/electrolyte interface. (Much of his work in physics and electrodynamics is not well known today, since it depended on assumptions about the ether, a concept which of course was eventually destroyed by Einstein's theories of relativity.) He did equally important work in physiology, and was the first person to estimate the rate of travel of nerve impulses (~ 27 meters/second -- something his mentor Müller claimed in print would be impossible to measure). This work introduced the concept of reaction time to the field of physiology, and helped to demolish the doctrine of vitalism (enthusiastically propounded by his mentor Müller; see above). Throughout this work, Helmholtz was also an imposing inventor and engineer, inventing (among many other things) the ophthalmoscope (familiar today from any visit to an optometrist), the ophthalmometer (used for measuring the accommodation of the eye -- eventually the topic of the first scientific publication of Carl Seashore [see below], his academic great-grandson), the myograph (used for measuring the speed of nerve impulses), and the Helmholtz Resonaters (built from resonating spheres that could be used for analyzing and creating the constituent tones of complex natural sounds).
Closer to home, Helmholtz extended Müller's doctrine of 'specific nerve energies' (see above) to offer a comprehensive theory of color vision, predicting (for the wrong reasons) that the early visual system would contain three primary kinds of photoreceptors. He also propounded a theory of perception as unconscious inference, discussing why the contents of our conscious visual experience are not simple records of retinal input, but rather contain structure that is and must be indirectly inferred via automatic educated guesses. He proposed that what is perceived are essentially those objects and events that under normal conditions would be most likely to produce the received sensory stimulation, judged against inborn assumptions about the structure of the world. This principle (of 'coincidence avoidance') remains a powerful explanatory tool today for an incredibly broad range of visual phenomena, and the principle continues to be directly discussed as an overarching theory of vision (e.g. in a 2005 chapter by his academic great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson). Helmholtz also laid the foundations for the modern science of acoustics, in his 1863 book, On the Sensation of Tone as a Psychological Basis for the Theory of Music.
Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt
Foundations of experimental psychology, Memory, Vision, Audition, Touch, Attention, Temporal perception and cognition, Association, Research methods
3 Sample Publications
Wundt, W. M. (1900 to 1920) Volkerpsychologie (Social/Cultural psychology), 10 volumes.
Wundt, W. M. (1896/1897). Grundriss der psychcologie (Outlines of psychology) (Charles Hubbard Judd, Trans.).
Wundt, W. M. (1874/1902/1904). Grundzuge der physiologischen psychologie (Principles of physiological psychology), 5th Edition (Edward Bradford Titchener, Trans., 1st German edition published in 1874).
Wundt is widely acknowledged as the founder of experimental psychology. After his degree in medicine from the University of Heidelberg in 1856 he studied briefly with Johannes Müller (see above), and then became an assistant in 1858 to Hermann von Helmholtz, a position he held for 13 years. He was eventually promoted to Assistant Professor of Physiology in 1864, but in 1871 he failed to be appointed to Helmholtz's chair. He moved to Leipzig in 1875, as the Chair of Inductive Philosophy, and immediately set up one of the first two psychological laboratories in the world (the other being William James', that same year). He stayed at Leipzig for the rest of his career, eventually publishing more than 450 works, and supervising 186 dissertations: 70 on philosophical topics, and 116 on psychological problems (with 28% of the psychological studies involving vision, 23% audition, 5% touch, 8% temporal perception and cognition, 11% association, 10% attention and memory, and 9% methods). He mentored many important figures in the field -- even those who came to Leipzig for only a few years but did not stay to complete a PhD -- including G. Stanley Hall, James McKeen Cattell, Albert Michotte, Edward Pace, Oswald Kulpe, Edward Bradford Titchener, Emil Kraepelin, Lightner Witmer, Hugo Munsterberg, and Charles Spearman.
In person, Wundt was quiet, methodical, and hard-working in nearly all aspects of his life; his daily schedule "ran like clockwork". Wundt was well aware at the time that he was charting out a new field of study, noting in the preface of the first edition of his Principles of Physiological Psychology (1874) -- one of his major works, which went through 6 editions, up to 1911 -- that the work was intended to "mark out a new domain of science".
(Though Wundt is my adademic great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, there is reason to believe that we are separated by only 3 'handshakes'. The great Belgian psychologist Albert Michotte visited Wundt for 1 year, between 1905 and 1906, and almost certainly shook hands with him. Michotte, toward the end of his life, shook hands in his drawing room with Pim Levelt -- now Director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, but then a 20-year-old student who was joining Michotte's lab group for a short time. And, on 9/24/05, I shook hands with Levelt; appropriately, this occurred in the 'Auditorium Michotte' at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium, as Michotte's portrait looked on.)
Edward Wheeler Scripture
Foundations of experimental psychology, Instrumentation for psychological research, Speech -- especially speech pathology, Phonemes, Stuttering, Meter in poetry, Psychophysics, Tests for color vision, Hallucinations, Number savants, Psychophysics in fencing
3 Sample Publications
Scripture, E. W. (1935). Phonemes. Nature, 136, 261 - 262.
Scripture, E. W. (1897). Cerebral light. Science, 6, 138 - 139.
Scripture, E. W. (1895). Thinking, Feeling, Doing. Meadville, Pennsylvania: Flood & Vincent, Chautauqua Press.
Scripture received a B.A. from the College of the City of New York in 1884, then headed abroad, studying at Berlin, Leipzig, and Zurich. He studied for the Ph.D. (on a project relating thinking to the process of association) at Leipzig with Wilhelm Wundt (see above), working at the time with fellow students including Edward Pace and Frank Angell (cousin of James Rowland Angell, of whom see more below). While abroad Scripture also worked for a time with Ebbinghaus. After earning his Ph.D. he returned to the U.S., and worked for a while as an assistant to Stanley Hall at Clark University. He came to Yale in 1892 as Instructor of Experimental Psychology, and later became Assistant Professor in 1901. After his move Scripture established the Yale Psychological Laboratory -- the first research laboratory in psychology at Yale, and one of the first in the country. (As part of my historical snooping I obtained this photo of Scripture's Yale laboratory and this photo of his seminar room.) In New Haven Scripture held a weekly seminar for Yale graduate students at his home, during which all conversation was in German.
Scripture was a nationally prominent psychologist during the earliest phases of his career, eventually publishing well over 100 papers (including more than 15 in Nature over the course of his career, and 6 in Science in a single year). He also played a role in founding the APA -- and indeed was one of the 16 psychologists in the room in G. Stanley Hall's study at Clark University at its original conception (on July 8th, 1892). Scripture was an early advocate of methodological rigor, and was "obsessed with constancy, precision, and regularity". This led to a focus on instrumentation which seemed to his student Carl Seashore (see below) to bear "more resemblance to telegraphy than psychology"; in this work he published articles with titles such as "An instrument for mapping hot and cold spots on the skin" (in Science). This focus also led him to disparage non-experimental work (what he dubbed "armchair psychology") at every opportunity. This type of value judgment extended back into the past, and in his infamous book The New Psychology he referred to the work of his intellectual forbears in philosophy as "endless speculation and flimsy guesswork", and as "merely a collection of vague observations as the basis of endless discussion". He concluded that "philosophy ... has contributed nothing but stumbling-blocks in aid of psychology." He correspondingly promoted the experimental method as the only game in town, noting in his autobiography: "Wherever measurements are introduced, most previous statements are shown to consist of illusions and delusions or to be quite meaningless.... Numbers are the beginning, the essence, and the end of all things.... Experimental psychology can never rise above a rather amateurish level till the leaders can handle vectors, Hamiltonians, and potentials as well as the representatives of the physical sciences can.... [K]nowledge of mental life could be obtained only by making experiments and ... the productions of the armchair psychology had no more value than medieval speculations concerning how many angels could dance on the point of a needle." He summed up his not-so-subtle view in these terms: "I came to regard non-experimental psychology as talk-talk-talk and nothing but talk." He reserved harsher words for neuroscientific approaches to the mind: "In Leipzig I learned to treat mental facts as mental facts and not to represent thoughts and emotions as nerve cells tickling one another.... I now throw aside every book on psychology the moment I see a picture of the brain in it.... When a psychologist attempts to explain mental activity in terms of nerve cells and nerve currents he is merely trying to cloak psychological ignorance with neurological foolishness."
All of this got Scripture into enormous trouble. He was initially invited to Yale by George Trumbull Ladd, Chair of the Philosophy Department, and a figure of enormous power and influence in the University. Ladd was also a major figure in Psychology at the time, and in 1893 was the second President of the APA (serving immediately prior to William James). Ladd, however, was most definitely not an experimentalist. (Seashore, as noted below, suggested that Ladd never ran a single experiment.) As such, Scripture's outrageous claims about the lack of utility of non-experimental approaches (in particular) and the entire field of philosophy (in general) -- which were made in nationally prominent books -- angered Ladd immensely. This led to a vicious fight at Yale between Scripture and Ladd, the details of remain obscure, but with an impact felt by all at Yale at the time. Indeed, Seashore -- an eventual giant in the field himself (see below) -- referred to this debacle in his own autobiography as "the downfall of psychology at Yale", and suggested because of this personal struggle, "philosophy and psychology at Yale 'disintegrated'". Eventually Yale's new President, Arthus Twining Hadley, saw this struggle as a major roadblock and he essentially sacked both Scripture and Ladd. Ladd was forced into an Emeritus position (at the relatively young age of 62); Scripture was given a year's leave of absence and told that his position would not be renewed. Seashore thought this move was too extreme: "The struggle grew into a pitched battle in which neither side got justice. The smash-up of the Department was an internal war.... Innocent parties suffered and the Department was cleaned out. It took philosophy and psychology a long time to rehabilitate themselves at Yale.... The President should have recognized in Scripture the new approach to mental science, of which Scripture was champion. Instead he threw the baby out with the bath." (Alas, this was not the last "internal war" in the Philosophy department at Yale, but that is another story, too tangential for this account.) Because of this tension, Scripture ended up mentoring very few students, of which Seashore (see below) was certainly the most prominent. He did also mentor Matataro Matsumoto for a while, however, who became an important figure in the development of experimental psychology in Japan (and eventually received the first PhD in Psychology awarded in Japan, by the University of Tokyo).
Scripture's downfall at Yale also played out on a national scale. Though he was among the most important figures in the initial development of experimental psychology in the U.S., he ceased to play any noticable role in the field within a decade. Scripture was incredibly egotistical, and his personality was described by Seashore as "nervously unstable". His incredible claims about the experimental approach angered the field at large, and this anger was stoked by two other factors. First, his popular books The New Psychology (1898) and Thinking, Feeling, Doing (1895) were extremely unfair to other prominent figures, especially Ladd and William James. Second, Thinking, Feeling, Doing turned out to contain huge swaths of text which were plagiarized from a recent book by his advisor Wundt (as translated by Titchener), and this caused an uproar. (As part of my historical research, I obtained an electronic copy of the full text of this book; click here for a 34 MB PDF file, courtesy of the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science.) This led to savage reviews in the literature, e.g. in a highly-negative notice in Psychological Review by James Rowland Angell (a 26-year-old student of James at the time, and later President of Yale). Hugo Munsterberg referred to Scripture as an experimentalist, but not a psychologist, and James himself called Scripture "shallow, and a complete barbarian" (!).
As a result of these events both at Yale and in the field at large, Scripture eventually turned his back on psychology, even giving away his entire collection of psychology books to James McKeen Cattell (another giant in the field, who was perhaps Scripture's only friend and close colleague in the field after these events). Eventually Scripture noted that "After twenty-five years of active service as a physician I cannot read the usual book on psychology without being bored." Scripture did not leave the field entirely, though; he moved into the study of speech and speech pathology, eventually earning an M.D. in 1906 at the University of Munich, and doing important work on phonetics and speech disorders. He was called in 1923 to the Professorship of Experimental Phonetics at the University of Vienna, where he eventually ended his academic career. One of his final mysterious autobiographical notes was that his previous work was rendered moot by Einstein: "Everything that I had ever believed in was swept away as soon as I managed to get some understanding of relativity."
(Note: Scripture, unlike Seashore (see below), was not very forthcoming (and was even a bit elusive) about his own background. Even in his autobiography, he explicitly says that "I notice a paucity of personal details in my account. I have forgotten most of them and I am not interested in the rest." As such, thanks are due to Michael Sokal's excellent scholarship for unearthing much of the available personal information about Scripture.)
Carl Emil Seashore
Tests of musical ability, Illusions of weight, Education, Beauty in music, Applied psychology, Talent, Teaching, Music education, Vibrato, Speech, Tests of artistic appreciation, Instrumentation for psychology (especially music), Education and testing, Gifted education, Dreams, Taste, Religion, Pitch perception, Psychophysics, Visual illusions
3 Sample Publications
Seashore, C. E. (1942). Science in music. Science, 95, 417 - 422.
Seashore, C. E. (1913). Psychology in daily life. Oxford: Appleton.
Scripture, E. W., & Seashore, C. E. (1893). On the measurement of hallucinations. Science, 22, 353.
Born in Sweden, Seashore started his life as a farmer's son in Iowa. He paid his way through college at Gustavus Adolphus (graduating with a B.A. in 1891) by working as an organist and choir director at a church. He headed to Yale for graduate school in Philosophy immediately thereafter. Upon entering Yale, he noted that "I had no clear notion as to what psychology might be", but he was fated to enter on the day that the Yale Psychological Laboratory opened, directed by Scripture. Graduate school at Yale for Seashore was a bit different from the experience today: "We wore silk hats and Prince Albert coats to class". He initially intended to do work in Philosophy with George Trumbull Ladd (a giant figure at Yale, whose Elements of Physiological Psychology was, along with William James' more famous work, the "last word in experimental psychology in 1892".) Despite Ladd's prominence at that time in the new psychology, he was not an experimentalist. According to Seashore: "So far as I know Ladd performed but one experiment, and that by proxy. I performed the experiment for him. The hypothesis was wrong, the technique inadequate, and the conclusion was unwarranted." Seashore ended up doing his dissertation with Edward Wheeler Scripture, whose approach (see above) was much more experimental. His initial reaction to this work was unenthusiastic: "We spent a long time on experiments which seemed nearer to telegraphy than psychology". Despite this initial reaction, he later judged his time with Scripture to be "largely responsible for such leadership as I have since enjoyed in psychology". Scripture, for his part, called Seashore "my pupil, assistant, and friend", and Seashore noted that "I am the only one of his [Scripture's] pupils in that earliest period who survived the ordeal and remained clearly in the field of experimental psychology". His dissertation dealt primarily with illusions of weight, and was the first Ph.D. ever awarded to a student at Yale in Psychology.
After his degree Seashore was appointed 'Fellow in Psychology' at Yale, and served for 2 years as a lab assistant and postdoctoral student with Scripture. After 5 years at Yale he was offered a permanent position, but chose instead to head back to the state of his youth, and became an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa in 1897. This move led to one of the most illustrious careers in Psychology of his generation, and at Iowa he served for 40 years as eventual Professor of Psychology, Chair of the Department of Psychology, and Dean of the Graduate School (a position he served in for longer than any other Dean in the country, at that time). Initially at Iowa he had no assistants, and did all of his work himself, spending 15-18 hours per day in the lab. He eventually earned most of the career laurels possible for a psychologist at that time, including serving as President of the APA (in 1911) and being elected to the National Academy of Sciences (for which he served as Chairman of the Division of Anthropology and Psychology from 1933 - 1939). (He was actually the first faculty member from Iowa in any field to be elected to the NAS.) His son Robert also eventually became a psychologist, and was the first child of an APA member to also become a member.
Seashore's career spanned the formative period of experimental psychology: "There was a time when I had visited all the psychological laboratories in the world." He was incredibly productive, but never identified with any overarching intellectual 'school' of psychology. He was a hardcore experimentalist, though: he subscribed to Scripture's views, noting that "where there is no experiment there is no science", and referring to non-experimentalists as "paper psychologists". He eventually published 237 books and articles, branching out from his first paper on optics (on the speed of adaptations in the accomodation of the eye) to encompass work in most areas in the field. (He failed to jump on the neuroanatomical bandwagon of the day, though: "Dissection of the brain then, as now, impressed me as only a remote interest to psychology.") He published more than 20 articles in Science, and wrote many books -- including Psychology in daily life (1913), Introduction to Psychology (1923), The psychology of musical skills (1932), Elementary experiments in psychology (1935), Psychology of music (1938), Why we love music (1941), and In search of beauty in music: A scientific approach to musical aesthetics (1947). His greatest lasting contribution was his work on music cognition, especially involving ways of measuring and analyzing musical aptitude. His Seashore Tests of Musical Ability are still in use, and were at one time a means of selection for admission to the Eastman School. He also did a tremendous amount of work on educational policy, and founded programs for gifted students. As part of his work for the National Research Council, he visited over 140 universities, and through this work: "I think it is safe to say that no other man has met as many faculties or faculty committees in the interest of higher education as I had the pleasure of doing."
Joseph (Harold) Tiffin
Industrial psychology, Achievement testing, Psychophysics in applied settings, Psychological methods for personnel evaluation, Attention in applied contexts (e.g. advertising), Development of tests for applied psychology, Speech, Reading, Vibrato, Evaluating musical aptitude
3 Sample Publications
Tiffin, J., & McCormick, E. J. (1965). Industrial psychology, 5th Edition. Prentice-Hall.
Tiffin, J., Knight, F. B., & Asher, E. J. (1946). The psychology of normal people, Revised Edition. Oxford: Health.
Seashore, C. E., & Tiffin, J. (1930). An objective method of evaluating musical performance. Science, 72, 480 - 482.
Tiffin (who hated his middle name, and never used the 'H') began his education with a B.A. in philosophy and psychology from the University of South Dakota in 1927, and headed immediately to Iowa for graduate studies (where he received his M.A. in 1928 before receiving his Ph.D. 2 years later). He had originally intended to keep up his studies in both of his undergraduate disciplines, but his advisor, Carl Seashore (who always referred to him simply as "Tiffin"), told him to drop all of his philosophy courses, and to take acoustics and experimental phonetics instead. After receiving his Ph.D., he stayed on as a faculty member at Iowa, later moving to Brooklyn College and finally Purdue University. He established Purdue's first psychological laboratory, and eventually retired in 1971.
He began his career as a successful experimental psychologist (with strong interests, following Seashore, in the psychology of music). After he arrived at Purdue, however, he went through a massive career shift and became a leading figure in industrial psychology -- and in the process "became a renegade from classical sensory and psychophysical psychology". He authored a popular book and also the leading textbook in this area (The psychology of normal people, 1940; Industrial Psychology, 1942). The textbook (which eventually went through 5 editions) was adopted at one point by the US Armed Services Institute, and distributed in paperback form to soldiers across the world. His work was not all academic, and he conducted applied psychological research at US Steel, Bausch & Lomb, the Office of Naval Research, the Kinsbury Ordinance Plant, and the A.C. Neilsen Company. He was a President (from 1958 - 1959) of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (now APA Division 14), and was also the first person ever to photograph the human vocal chords in action. He wrote his advisor Seashore's obituary in Psychological Review in 1950.
Perceptual/motor interactions, Instrumentation for psychology, Research methods, Psychophysics, Skill acquisition, Stuttering, Vibrato, Data analysis
3 Sample Publications
Lewis, D. (1960). Quantitative methods in psychology. McGraw-Hill.
Lewis, D. (1940). Support for the exploring method of measuring aural harmonics. Psychological Review, 47, 169 - 183.
Lewis, D, & Larsen, M. J. (1937). The cancellation, reinforcement, and measurement of subjective tones. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 23, 415 - 421.
Lewis received a B.A. from Parsons College and both an M.A. and his Ph.D. from Iowa (with Carl Seashore also serving on his dissertation committee). He stayed on as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Iowa from 1937 until his retirement in 1968 (with a leave for military service during World War II from 1942 - 1944), and was Professor Emeritus until his death in 1972. A dissertation award at Iowa continues to carry his name.
(This photo of Lewis, from 1959, is courtesy of the University Archives in the Dept. of Special Collections of the University of Iowa Libraries; thanks to Dottie Persson and David McCartney for digging it up!)
Alfred Henry Shephard
History of psychology, Mental testing, Research methods, Psychophysics, Perceptual-motor interactions, Data analysis, Instrumentation
3 Sample Publications
Shephard, A. H. (1978). Toss of a coin: Probability and games of chance -- Mathematical models of physical phenomena. Canadian Psychological Review, 19(2), 105 - 115.
Lewis, D., & Shephard, A. H. (1951). Prior learning as a factor in shaping performance curves. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 37, 124 - 131.
Lewis, D., Shephard, A. H., & Adams, J. A. (1949). Evidences of associative interference in psychomotor performance. Science, 110, 271 - 273.
Shephard (or 'Alf', as everyone knew him) was born and raised in Vancouver, and was nearly ordained as a minister before switching to psychology. After his graduate studies at Iowa he became a Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. After 12 years at Toronto he moved to Manitoba, where he was the Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Manitoba from 1961 to 1973.
Neil McKinnon Agnew
Psychophysics, Decision-making, Research methods, Rationality, Attention, AI and expert systems, The frame problem, Drug-induced psychoses, Anxiety measurement, Word-recognition, Stress, Clinical psychology training
3 Sample Publications
Agnew, N. Mck., & Pyke, S. W. (1994). The science game: Introduction to research in the social sciences, 6th edition. Prentice-Hall.
Hayes, P. J., Ford, K. M., & Agnew, N. McK., (1994). On babies and bathwater: A cautionary tale. AI Magazine, 15, 15 - 26.
Agnew, N. McK., & Brown, J. L. (1986). Bounded rationality: Fallible decisions in unbounded problem space. Behavioral Science, 31, 115 - 141.
Agnew received three degrees from the University of Toronto: a B.A. in 1947, an M.A. in 1950, and the Ph.D. in 1958. Beyond his formal Ph.D. work, he counts Donald Campbell as an important mentor. After his Ph.D. he first worked in Saskatchewan, both in the Department of Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan, and as the Chief Research Psychologist and Director of the 'Psychological Research Centre' of the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health. He later moved to Toronto where he was Professor of Psychology at York University for 28 years, from 1965 - 1993, and was the first Director of York's 'Psychological Services' (now known as the 'Counseling and Development Centre'). He is currently a Senior Scholar at York. He is a fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association, and previously served as President of the Saskatchewan Psychological Association, and as Editor of The Saskatchewan Psychologist.
Zenon Walter Pylyshyn
Foundations of cognitive science, Foundations of artificial intelligence, Mental imagery, Visual attention, Visual tracking, Psychological explanation, Relating perception and cognition, Subitizing, The frame problem, Connectionism and cognitive architecture, Apparent motion, Direct perception, Psychophysics, Memory, Cognitive development, Problem solving, Speech correlates of clinical conditions, Effects of anxiety on psychophysical judgments
3 Sample Publications
Pylyshyn, Z. W. (2004). Seeing and visualizing: It's not what you think. MIT Press.
Pylyshyn, Z. W. (1984). Computation and cognition: Toward a foundation for cognitive science. MIT Press.
Pylyshyn, Z. W., & Agnew, N. (1962). Absolute judgment of distance as a function of anxiety and exposure time. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 14(3), 411 - 418.
Pylyshyn received a B.Eng. degree in Engineering/Physics from McGill in 1959, and a M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in 1961, before going on to his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology. After his Ph.D. he spent 2 years as a Canada Council Senior Fellow, and then joined the faculty at the University of Western Ontario, where he stayed for more than 25 years as Professor of Psychology and Computer Science (with other appointments in the Departments of Philosophy and Electrical Engineering) and as Director of the UWO Center for Cognitive Science. In 1994 he moved to become the Board of Governors Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science and the founding Director of the Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science at Rutgers University.
Among Pylyshyn's many honors and awards are: the Jean Nicod Prize (2004); the Donald O. Hebb Award from the Canadian Psychological Association (1990); election to the Royal Society of Canada; serving as President of both the Cognitive Science Society and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology; Fellowships from the AAAI, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Canadian Psychological Association; and serving for 9 years as the Director of the program in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Pylyshyn has (so far) published well over 100 articles and chapters, including a 'Science Citation Classic' (a 1973 article on mental imagery in Psychological Bulletin), has written two influential books -- Computation and cognition: Toward a foundation for cognitive science (1984), and Seeing and visualizing: It's not what you think (2004) -- and has edited several other collections. His research has focused on the foundations of cognitive science and the nature of the cognitive architecture -- especially regarding mental imagery, connectionism, and visual attention and tracking (including his 'FINST' Visual Indexing theory).
Brian Jeffrey Scholl
Visual awareness (including inattentional blindness and motion-induced blindness); Attention; Object persistence; The perception of causality, animacy, and time; Perceptual averaging; Statistical learning; Innateness and modularity; Foundations of cognitive science
3 Sample Publications
Scholl, B. J. (2007). Object persistence in philosophy and psychology. Mind & Language, 22(5), 563-591.
Scholl, B. J. (2001). Objects and attention: The state of the art. Cognition, 80(1/2), 1 - 46.
Scholl, B. J., & Pylyshyn, Z. W. (1999). Tracking multiple items through occlusion: Clues to visual objecthood. Cognitive Psychology, 38, 259 - 290.
Not much is known about Scholl, except that he was raised by wolves before discovering science.
(Random note: There is a longer gap between Zenon's PhD and my PhD -- 36 years -- than between any other two 'adjacent' people listed in this lineage.)