Time Capsule

1596 René Descartes, the first great thinker to break with the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, was born on March 31. Descartes proposed that the mind and body were separate but interacting entities. He attempted to define the basic qualities of mind, studied properties of the nervous system and wrote on the optics of vision.

1881 Sigmund Freud received his MD degree from the University of Vienna on March 31. His dissertation topic was the reproductive system of eels. As a medical student, Freud discovered the analgesic properties of cocaine.

1948 Lithium was first used in a trial treatment of manic behavior on March 29. Australian John F.J. Cade gave lithium citrate to "a little wizened man of 51 who had been in a chronic state of excitement for five years. He was amiably restless, dirty, destructive, and interfering." The treatment was surprisingly effective and the patient was discharged on July 9, 1948.

1979 At about 4 p.m. on March 28, a temporary clog developed in a feed water line at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa. An analysis of the human responses and mechanical design characteristics of the Three Mile Island crisis became a classic in the fields of human factors and engineering psychology.

Further Reading

Source: APA Historical Database, created
and maintained by Warren R. Street, Central Washington University, and published as "A Chronology of Noteworthy Events in American Psychology" (APA, 1994).