The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


THE history of the Department of Psychology merges with that of the Department of Philosophy, since the two were not separated officially until 1929 (see Part IV: Department of Philosophy).

In Europe psychology did not begin to be recognized as a separate subject until the period 1872-80, and in America there was no modern psychology until the middle of the eighties or the beginning of the nineties. The work in psychology was given usually as "mental philosophy" by the professor of philosophy.

Two men in the early period may be mentioned because of their interest in psychology. Henry Philip Tappan (Union '25, D.D. ibid. '45, LL.D. Columbia '54), President of the University and Professor of Mental Philosophy from 1852 to 1863, wrote a book on the will. This work, supporting the doctrine of Page  709free will as against determinism, was in certain respects a psychological contribution. Of the early holders of the chair of philosophy, he was probably the strongest man in his subject.

His successor, Erastus Otis Haven (Wesleyan '42, A.M. ibid. '45, D.D. hon. Union '54, LL.D. Ohio Wesleyan '63), a professor of philosophy as well as of other subjects, was not so able a man as Tappan, but he did write a textbook on mental philosophy which had wide use as a text in other institutions as well as at the University of Michigan.

The work in psychology proper began when John Dewey (Vermont '79, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins '84, LL.D. Michigan '04) came to the University in 1884. He was Instructor and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan from 1884 to 1888. Then after a year as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, he returned to Michigan in 1889 to become head of the Department of Philosophy, and continued in that capacity until 1894, when he left for a similar position at the University of Chicago.

Both philosophy and psychology prospered markedly under Dewey's influence. Of course he has always been primarily a philosopher, but his contributions to psychology are also noteworthy. His first book, Psychology (1886), was written under the influence of the Hegelian system; nevertheless, it shows some indications of the work that he was to do later. Dewey taught psychology at times, and he also encouraged the founding of the first psychological laboratory at the University.

The first course that might be regarded from its title as distinctly a modern psychology course was given in 1890 by James Hayden Tufts (Amherst '84, LL.D. ibid. '04, B.D. Yale '89, Ph.D. Freiburg '92), who came as Instructor in Philosophy in 1889. This course, in which experimental work was offered, was entitled Physiological Psychology and was the first laboratory course in psychology at the University. Tufts resigned in 1891 and after a year abroad became an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, where he was again associated with Dewey from 1894 to 1904 and later headed the philosophy department for many years. In 1891 George Herbert Mead (A.B. Oberlin '83, A.B. Harvard '88) took over the course and added to it a certain amount of experimental work. He was Instructor in Philosophy from 1891 to 1893 and Assistant Professor in 1893-94; then, with Dewey, he also went to Chicago. There he advanced to a full professorship and remained in the philosophy department, of which he was the chairman in his later years, succeeding Tufts.

Mead offered four courses in various phases of physiological and experimental psychology in the early nineties. He changed the title of the course in physiological psychology to Advanced Psychology in 1893-94. He had taken over the two courses in experimental psychology, and continued them during the two years. He also, in 1893-94, offered a research course, which was apparently experimental psychology.

Neither Tufts nor Mead had had special training in laboratory psychology or physiological or experimental psychology, but their later work showed them to be men of the greatest ability. At this distance it is hard to say exactly what the content of their course was, although, to judge from the textbooks used, it was obviously a traditional course, treated from the viewpoint of physiological rather than of experimental psychology. The tradition that still held in 1897 was that Mead had started a fire in the South Wing of University Hall, where the laboratory was at that time, by permitting a brain that was being prepared and Page  710shellacked to catch fire; the fire then extended to the partitions of the laboratory proper.

During this early period a keen interest in psychology was evidently aroused among the undergraduates, to judge from the presence of students who later did work of importance in psychology. Thaddeus L. Bolton ('89, Ph.D. Clark '95) was a professor in various universities; later, from 1917 until he retired, he was in charge of the work in psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1891 James Rowland Angell received a master's degree, having taken his bachelor's degree in 1890. His interest in psychology developed, of course, under the influence of Dewey and Tufts. Immediately after receiving a second master's degree from Harvard in 1892, he, like Dewey, spent a year in the philosophy department of the University of Minnesota and then was called to the University of Chicago, where he was appointed director of the psychological laboratory in 1894. The careers of these two men may be regarded as ample evidence that outstanding students came under the influence of Dewey and his colleagues during the period when he was in charge of the work in psychology at the University of Michigan.

When Dewey left, the work in psychology became more definitely subordinated to the work in philosophy. Alfred Henry Lloyd (Harvard '86, Ph.D. ibid. '93), long connected with the Department of Philosophy, was elected Acting Chairman, and he and his followers gave the general courses in psychology. For one year, 1894-95, John Bigham (Amherst '87, B.D. Yale '92, Ph.D. Harvard '94), who had studied under Münsterberg, was Instructor. He came specifically to do work in psychology, although his title was Instructor in Philosophy. Apparently a man of the mechanically minded type, he was fairly successful with the laboratory, for which, in his one year at the University, he gathered together a supply of apparatus rather unusual at that time. At the end of the year he went into business.

His successor, Edgar Pierce (Harvard '92, Ph.D. ibid. '95), had also studied under Münsterberg. Primarily, he carried on the laboratory work, at which, according to Professor Lloyd, he was very successful. However, he too left at the end of the year. He married the daughter of the proprietor of a chain of fashionable hotels in Boston. Pierce took an active part in the management of the hotels and abandoned work in psychology, but not, apparently, his interest in the subject. He continued to be a member of the American Psychological Association.

In the year 1896-97 Robert Mark Wenley (A.M. Glasgow '84, Ph.D. ibid. '95, LL.D. ibid. '01, Sc.D. Edinburgh '91) was appointed Professor of Philosophy and head of the Department of Philosophy. He decided not to fill the instructorship in psychology until after further consideration; so the place was left vacant, the laboratory equipment was stored, and the psychological work had a year's vacation.

In 1897-98 Walter Bowers Pillsbury (Nebraska '92, LL.D. ibid. '34, Ph.D. Cornell '96) was appointed Instructor in Psychology and revived the laboratory on a small scale. In the earlier years, the psychological laboratory ordinarily occupied a single unit on the first floor of the South Wing of University Hall. In 1897-98, a room on the first floor of the building now called Mason Hall was set aside for psychology. Although the room was small, it was divided into four smaller rooms, one of which was a general laboratory. Another was a small darkroom, and two other smaller rooms were available for purposes of research.

Up to that time the elementary course in psychology had ordinarily been given Page  711by one of the members of the staff of the Department of Philosophy. The introductory course in philosophy in 1897-98 was given by Wenley. The first half of the course covered work in general philosophy, and in the middle of the semester the class was divided into two sections, one of which studied psychology and the other logic. Pillsbury was in charge of the psychology section in that year; and from that time on the work in psychology was entirely distinct from the work in philosophy as far as personnel was concerned. All the courses in psychology were given by Pillsbury and his assistants; philosophy proper was taught by others on the staff of the department. This arrangement continued until the required courses in the Department (later, College) of Literature, Science, and the Arts were discontinued. When the elective system went into effect, the original Course 1 in philosophy, which was made up of general philosophy and psychology or general philosophy and logic, was abandoned, and separate elective courses replaced it. In 1901 the words "Director of the Psychological Laboratory" were added to Pillsbury's title, in recognition of the separateness of the two disciplines.

From 1897-98 through 1900-1901 Psychology was a year course of three, four, or five hours each semester. There was an option of one or two hours of laboratory work in addition to the three hours of basic lectures and recitations. The maximum five-hour course was regarded as the normal one, however, and a full year's work was required to cover the subject. Professor Allen S. Whitney, of the Department of Education, suggested that the students of education needed a shorter course, and in the second semester of 1900-1901 a course of two hours complete in one semester was introduced specifically for their benefit. The latter course was afterwards extended to a one-semester course of three hours offered twice a year to all students of the University. Although the original year course was continued, the newer course quickly became the more popular. Both are still offered, the longer one for students who wish a thorough survey of the subject in one course, and the other for those who need only a brief introduction, to be followed later by other courses in education or in psychology.

Of the several assistants in the early period who did not remain, perhaps the most important man was John Edward Wallace Wallin (Augustana '97, Ph.D. Yale '01), since become a specialist in educational psychology and mental hygiene and now in charge of the Division of Special Education of the State Department of Public Instruction of Delaware.

In 1903 John Frederick Shepard (St. Lawrence '01, Sc.D. ibid. '25, Ph.D. Michigan '06), then a student at the University of Chicago, came as an assistant and has continued with various titles to the present time. With the growth of the number of students and of the University resources, the staff gradually expanded. Shepard was appointed Instructor in 1906; he became Professor of Psychology in 1918. He specially developed animal psychology.

In 1910-11 Pillsbury received his promotion to a full professorship. The only other staff members in psychology at that time were Shepard and one assistant, Harry W. Crane.

The next addition to the staff was Henry Foster Adams (Wesleyan '05, Ph.D. Chicago '10), who, after a year at the University of Kansas, came to Michigan as Instructor in 1911. He now holds a professorship. He early began to specialize in advertising, and extended his interest to applied psychology in general.

The other additions to the staff have been mainly from the ranks of assistants who have proved themselves in the department. Charles Hurlbut Griffitts Page  712(Campbell '13, Ph.D. Michigan '19) was assistant for one year and was then appointed Instructor in 1917. He has advanced to a professorship. Martha Guernsey ('19, Ph.D. '22), who later became Mrs. Walter Colby, was appointed Instructor in 1921 and was made Associate Professor in 1935. She devoted herself especially to child psychology. Carl Richards Brown (Kansas '11, Ph.D. Michigan '28) was appointed to the staff in 1921 and was promoted to an assistant professorship in 1929.

Adelbert Ford ('20, Ph.D. '26) was appointed Instructor in 1923, and in 1931 was appointed Professor of Psychology and head of the Department of Psychology at Lehigh University. He was succeeded in the same year at the University of Michigan by Norman Raymond Frederick Maier ('23, Ph.D. '28), who, after receiving his doctorate here, had spent one year at Long Island University and two years as National Research fellow at the University of Chicago. He advanced through the grades to an associate professorship in 1939. Maier was trained by Dr. Lashley for experimental work in brain lesions and their effects. He has developed work along that line here. Burton Doan Thuma ('23, Ph.D. '30) was appointed Instructor in 1928, and succeeded Ford as lecturer in the elementary course, Course 31, in 1931. At that time he was made Assistant Professor. He was promoted to be Associate Professor in 1939. George Meyer (California '27, Ph.D. Michigan '34) was appointed Instructor in 1930 and has continued to the present time, giving one of the courses in statistics. He was advanced to an assistant professorship in 1940.

Another staff member appointed from outside was Edward Barrows Greene (Amherst '18, Ph.D. Columbia '28), Instructor in 1928 and Assistant Professor in 1936, who devotes himself principally to tests and clinical psychology.

As to the laboratory, additional space was provided when, in 1903, the wooden building that had been used by Dr. Warthin as a pathological laboratory, and at times by the students of the College of Dentistry, was vacated upon Dr. Warthin's moving into the new Medical Building (West Medical Building). This greatly increased the space devoted to psychological laboratory work, and, moreover, made available a number of small rooms, but as permanent quarters the building was inadequate. Erected as an addition to the older building, originally a residence, that occupied the eastern part of the site of the present Natural Science Building, it had been intended as a homeopathic hospital. This addition had been made soon after Lord Lister's discovery of the importance of freedom from bacterial infection, and, in accordance with the widespread belief that hospitals should be torn down every few years to destroy sources of infection, it had been designed as only a temporary structure. However, after the erection of the new hospitals, it had been used for various purposes until finally the psychology laboratory fell heir to it. The many small rooms were partitioned off for privacy for students doing research work or for those working in the general course. It was here that Shepard started his laboratory maze, the maze that has seen continual service for more than thirty years with a constant accumulation of results, not many of which, unfortunately, have as yet been published. The old building fulfilled its function with a fair degree of efficiency, if not aesthetically, until 1915, when the psychology laboratory was established in the newly completed Natural Science Building.

Shepard was in temporary charge of the work in psychology in the year 1913 while Pillsbury was abroad on sabbatical leave, and so distinguished himself in his Page  713work on planning a laboratory that the Regents asked him to take charge, first, of the building of the Natural Science Building itself, and later, for a period of years, of the general building program of the University. His title was Supervisor of the Building Plans during the years 1921-26.

The new laboratory which was developed in the Natural Science Building includes about forty rooms. Of special interest is the maze room, which is designed so as to offer no cues to the rat in running the maze, and so that the rats can be observed from a trap door in the room above. Another room of special design was a soundproof room, which was as free from sound as most rooms of that type. Extensive darkrooms were provided in addition to rooms for the main type of investigation in psychology. This available space was quickly outgrown, and in 1925 it was necessary to ask for space in the old Pharmacology Building; and later other space was provided on the third floor in the West Medical Building.

Some of the earlier students who have attained distinction in relatively recent times include Herbert H. Woodrow ('04, Ph.D. Columbia '09), Floyd C. Dockeray ('07, Ph.D. '15), John E. Winter ('06, Ph.D. '17), Joseph E. de Camp (A.M. '12, Ph.D. '14), Clark L. Hull ('13, Ph.D. Wisconsin '18), and Harry W. Crane ('09, Ph.D. '13). Woodrow went to Columbia for his doctor's degree, but did his research problem for his thesis at the University of Michigan in the summer. He is now chairman of the department of psychology at the University of Illinois. Dockeray, after completing the work on his doctorate at the University of Michigan, went to the University of Kansas, from there to Ohio Wesleyan University, and then to Ohio State University. Winter became chairman of the department of psychology at the University of West Virginia. De Camp, immediately after receiving his doctor's degree, went to Pennsylvania State College, where he is a professor. His thesis was one of the first in America on retroactive inhibition, and started much discussion. Clark Hull was appointed an assistant at the University of Wisconsin, where he did the work for the doctor's degree, aided by Professor Shepard, who had suggested the topic. Hull is now at the Yale Institute of Human Relations, and was president of the American Psychological Association in 1936. Harry W. Crane, Instructor in the University from 1913 to 1915, is now professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina and director of mental health and hygiene for the state of North Carolina.

Sven Froeberg (Bethany '03, Ph.D. Columbia '08), who held an instructorship from 1913 to 1917, is now professor of psychology and education at Gustavus Adolphus College. Ernest Burton Skaggs ('16, Ph.D. '23) was Instructor from 1922 to 1924. He is now a professor at Wayne University in Detroit. Forrest Lee Dimmick (Cornell '15, Ph.D. ibid. '20) served as Instructor from 1921 to 1925, when he left to become professor of psychology at Hobart College. John Duncan Finlayson (A.B. '12, B.D. Auburn Theological Seminary '14, Th.D. Harvard '16) was Instructor from 1921 to 1922, when he left to be president of Fairmont College; he was later president of the University of Wichita, and still later chancellor of the University of Tulsa. Howard Roscoe Mayberry (Ohio Univ. '18) came into the department as Instructor in 1924 and left in 1927 for a similar position in the University of Pittsburgh. Clarence Edwin Ragsdale (Missouri '13, Ph.D. Michigan '27) was Instructor in 1924-25, and then left for the University of Wisconsin, where he is now assistant professor of educational psychology. In 1928 Thorlief Grüner Page  714Hegge (Ph.D. Royal Norwegian Univ. [Oslo] '18) came to the University on a National Educational Committee fellowship. After two years he became director of research at the Wayne County Training School and Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan.

Heinz Werner (Ph.D. Vienna '14), compelled to leave the University of Hamburg through political disturbances, was a lecturer for the three years ending in June, 1936, on characterology and Gestalt psychology.


Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1884-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1914-23.
Catalogue and Register, Univ. Mich., 1923-27.
General Register Issue, Univ. Mich., 1927-40.
Perry, Charles M.Henry Philip Tappan … Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich. Press, 1933.
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1871-72, 1879-1905.
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1884-1940.