Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey

By Joy A. Palmer; Liora Bresler et al. | Go to book overview

ALFRED BINET 1857-1911

The use of tests is today very common, and there are even contemporary authors who have made a specialty of organizing new tests according to theoretical views, but who have made no effort to patiently try them out in the schools. Theirs is an amusing occupation, comparable to a person's making a colonizing expedition into Algeria, advancing always only upon the map, without taking off his dressing gown. We place but slight confidence in the tests invented by these authors and we have borrowed nothing from them. All the tests which we propose have been repeatedly tried, and have been retained from among many, which after trial have been discarded. We can certify that those which are here presented have proved themselves valuable. 1

Alfred Binet was born on 8 July 1857 in Nice, France. He was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, who was born the year before, Francis Galton, whose Inquiries into Human Faculty was published in 1883, Auguste Rodin, whose Gates of Hell was commissioned in 1880, Victor Hugo, whose Les Misérables was published in 1862, and Charles Darwin, whose On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. Binet's father was a physician, but his parents separated and his mother raised him. Little is recorded about Binet's childhood. His mother took him to Paris at the age of 15 to continue his education. In Paris, Binet studied both law and medicine, but found neither satisfactory. He received a law degree in 1878, and then enrolled in the Sorbonne to study natural sciences. At the same time, in his early 20s, he began to read psychology at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Eventually, he became a psychologist without formally enrolling in psychological studies, and never pursued law. In 1884 Binet married Laure Balbiani, with whom he had two daughters, Madeleine (b. 1885) and Alice (b. 1887).

Binet was introduced in about 1883 to the Salpêtrière, a Paris hospital that was originally a gunpowder factory which Louis XIV converted into a hospital and asylum for the poor. It was at the Salpêtrière that Binet met Jean-Martin Charcot, a physician and professor who had established there the greatest neurological clinic of the time. Charcot and the institution were world-renowned and attracted such people as Binet and Freud. One avenue of research that Charcot and his colleagues were pursuing was hysterics under hypnosis, and Binet joined in such studies during the 1880s. He enthusiastically entered into the publishing fray, which included a controversy between the researchers of the Salpêtrière and those of the Nancy school, from the city of Nancy. The Belgian mathematician Joseph-Remi-Leopold Delboeuf was also critical of the research results coming from the Salpêtrière, particularly of a series of studies that Binet performed with Charles Feré.

The debate, described in detail by Wolf 2 , centred on whether Binet and Feré were observing experimentally induced phenomena in hypnotized patients, as they claimed, or whether they were observing only the results of suggestibility. The results included transferring hypnotically induced paralysis on one side of the body to the other, and radically changing hypnotically induced emotional displays from laughing to crying, all by merely placing magnets near key areas of the body. Delboeuf agreed with the

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Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Chronological List of Contents v
  • Alphabetical List of Contents viii
  • Preface xiii
  • Confucius 551-479 Bce 1
  • Further Reading 5
  • Notes 9
  • Books on Aristotle''s Educational Ideas 20
  • Saint Augustine 354-430 25
  • John Wesley 1703-91 50
  • Kant''s Major Writings 64
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831 84
  • John Henry Newman 1801-90 100
  • Herbert Spencer 1820-1903 120
  • Thomas Henry Huxley 1825-95 128
  • Further Reading 146
  • Alfred Binet 1857-1911 160
  • Émile Durkheim 1858-1917 165
  • Addams'' Major Writings 187
  • Notes 191
  • Harvard (1924-39) 205
  • Émile Jaques-Dalcroze 1865-1950 206
  • Martin Buber 1878-1965 239
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