A Closer Look

Did you know that Hans Eysenck often skipped faculty meetings because he considered them a waste of time? Or that obedience researcher Stanley Milgram wrote children's stories and made home movies in his spare time? Or that Harry Kirke Wolfe once worked as a high school principal and William James never held a job until he was 30?

These are just a few examples of the lesser-known facts about psychology's giants offered in the five-volume "Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology" book series, created and sponsored by Div. 1 (Society of General Psychology) and published by APA and Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. The series, which will swell to six volumes next year, features accounts of the lives and work of psychology's pioneers, written by former students, colleagues, family members and historians.

"Those included in the volumes represent a kind of all-star team of the history of psychology," says Donald Dewsbury, PhD, historian for Div. 1 and co-editor of the upcoming sixth volume.

The idea for the series sprouted from the popular Div. 1-sponsored invited addresses about psychology's heavy-hitters at APA's Annual Conventions and regional psychology meetings. The division got so many requests from attendees to publish the often standing-room-only lectures that it converted the material into the first volume as a way to bring psychology's history alive for students, say its editors. APA published the first volume in 1991 in anticipation of its centennial year. The editors selected biography candidates for the four additional volumes with the help of nominations from Div. 1 members and others.

"The later volumes are a little bit more contemporary," says Dewsbury. "We get to more recent people, but we also go back to older folks we hadn't been able to cover before."

The sixth volume will feature biographies of such psychologists as behavior therapy pioneer Mary Cover Jones, humanistic psychology founder Abraham Maslow, mental health testing pioneer James McKean Cattell and Kenneth Clark, whose famous doll study provided evidence that racism battered the self-esteem of African-American children and influenced the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. The new volume will also feature the work of African-American behaviorist Charles Henry Turner, whose research clarified the roles of learning, genetic influences and sensory systems in the behavior of insects.

Many of the biographies are written in a lighthearted or humorous tone, and many offer a rare look into the psychologist's personal life. Several of the portraits in the first volume are written in first person as if autobiographical, including those of Ivan Pavlov, Leta Stetter Hollingsworth, Sir Francis Galton and Clark L. Hull. It even presents one portrait, of functionalist Harvey Carr, in an interview format.

The first five volumes were edited for the most part by Div. 1 members Gregory Kimble, PhD, and Michael Wertheimer, PhD, son of Gestalt psychology founder Max Wertheimer. Wertheimer, Dewsbury and Texas A&M psychology professor and historian Ludy Benjamin, PhD, will edit the sixth volume.

The division is exploring the possibility of reorganizing the series by topic to make the books better teaching tools for nonhistory courses such as social psychology, says Div. 1 president Peter Salovey, PhD, of Yale University. A fan of the series, Salovey hopes the debut of the sixth installment will spark renewed interest in the books among teachers and historians. "These are beautifully written histories of our field," he adds.

Div. 1 at a glance

Div. 1 (Society for General Psychology) was formed in 1945 to provide a home for psychologists interested in creating solidarity among psychology's many subspecialties. "Our members are committed to thinking about what psychologists can do to unite the field rather than fragment it, and so we very much value a focus on general principles," says Div. 1 president Peter Salovey, PhD.

The division has 2,035 members, and any psychologist--regardless of his or her specialty area--can join. The division sponsors the quarterly APA journal Review of General Psychology and publishes the General Psychologist newsletter three times a year. It also sponsors six annual awards that are presented at APA's Annual Convention. For information on joining, contact membership chair Harold Takooshian, PhD, at Takoosh@aol.com.