Professional Problems in Psychology

By Robert S. Daniel; C. M. Louttit | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Development of the Modern Profession of Psychology

Psychology as a science is a relatively young field. As Brett's monumental history 6 clearly shows, philosophers since Plato and Aristotle have discussed problems of sensation, perception, thinking, and behavior, all of which would today be considered proper subjects for scientific investigation. But it was not until late in the nineteenth century that empirical and experimental investigation of these same problems started, and the separation of psychology as a science from its earlier history in philosophy began. Insofar as a specific date can identify this beginning, it is 1860, when Fechner Elemente der Psychophysik was published. It must be remembered, however, that this book was written by a physicist-philosopher, that it was at least in part a result of earlier work of the physiologist E. H. Weber, and that it was the only major work in psychology by its author. At the same time a considerably younger physiologist was turning his attention to a similar problem -- in fact had published two years earlier the first section of a work which was completed in 1862, entitled Beiträge zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung. This author was Wilhelm Wundt ( 1832-1920), who bad taken his doctorate in medicine at Heidelberg in 1856 and had stayed there with an appointment in physiology. In the Beiträge he spoke of "experimentelle Psychologie" and during the four years of its writing his psychological interests widened. They continued to do so for the next 60 years. The importance of Wundt to modern psychology cannot be overemphasized. The volume of his writings,1 the many

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1
Boring (4, p. 345) calculates 53,735 pages in the 491 items of Wundt's bibliography, and points out that simple computation will reduce this to an estimated one word every two minutes for the 68 years between 1853 and 1920 -- and these are 24-hour days!

-13-

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