The Letters of William James - Vol. 1

By Henry James; William James | Go to book overview

VII

1872 -- 1878 First Years of Teaching

IN 1872 President Eliot wished to provide instruction in physiology and hygiene for the Harvard undergraduates, and looked about him for instructors. He had formed an impression of James ten years before which, as he said, "(was later to become useful to Harvard Universit y," and in the interval he had known him as a Cambridge neighbor and had been aware of the direction his interests had taken. He proposed that James and Dr. Thomas Dwight -- a young anatomist who was also to become an eminent teacher -- should share in the new undertaking. In August, 1872, the College appointed James "Instructor in Physiology," to conduct three exercises a week "during half of the ensuing academic year." Thus began a service in the University which was to be almost continuously active and engrossing until 1907.

The fact that James began by teaching anatomy and physiology, passed thence to psychology, and last to philosophy, has been wrongly cited as if his interest in each successive subject of his college work had been the fruit of his experience in teaching the preceding subject. This inference from the mere sequence of events will appear strange to attentive readers of what has gone before. In-deed, if the fact that James devoted a good share of his time to physiology in the seventies calls for remark at all, it should be noted that his subject, from soon after the begin ning, was really physiological psychology, and that -- more

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