William James 1842-1910

"The rush of thought is so headlong that it almost always brings us up at the conclusion before we can arrest it. The attempt at introspective analysis in these cases is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks."

William James, Principles of Psychology, vol. 1, p. 244

MD Harvard University 1869

APA President: 1894, 1904

William James did more to establish the new science of psychology in American than anyone else, despite the fact that he did not conduct psychological research or develop a systematic theory of psychology.

Former APA President William JamesHis influence was spread through his writing, especially his two most important books, Principles of Psychology and The Varieties of Religious Experience, but also through his many scholarly and popular articles. Among his students, some went on to important careers in psychology, including Mary Whiton Calkins and Edward Thorndike, others were writers or scientists in other fields, such as, Walter Cannon and Gertrude Stein. As one biographer put it, others "brought experimental psychology into the university for specialists, James made it come alive for everyone" (Fancher, 2000, p. 383).


For more on James, see:
Fancher, Raymond (2000). William James. In the Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol. 4, pp. 382-385. New York/Washingon, D.C.: Oxford/American Psychological Association.

Bjork, Daniel W. (1988). William James: The center of his vision. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Related Website: William James Site at Emory University