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Edward Bradford Titchener, D.Sc., Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D. (1867-1927) was an Englishman and a student of Wilhelm Wundt before becoming a professor of psychology and founding the first psychology laboratory in the United States at Cornell University. Titchener is best known for creating his version of psychology that described the structure of the mind; structuralism (psychology). He created the largest doctoral program in the United States (at the time) at Cornell University, and one of his graduate students, Margaret Floy Washburn became the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology (1894).
Education and Early Life
Attended Malvern College and then went on to Oxford from 1885 to 1890. It is at Oxford that Titchener first began to read the works of Wilhelm Wundt. During his time at Oxford, Titchener translated the third edition of Wundt’s book Principles of Physiological Psychology from German into English. After receiving his degree from Oxford in 1890, Titchener went on to Leipzig in Germany to study with Wundt. He completed his doctoral program and went on to take a position as a professor at Cornell University where he taught his view on the ideas of Wundt to his students in the form of structuralism (psychology).
Titchener’s ideas on how the mind worked were heavily influenced by Wundt’s theory of voluntarism and his ideas of Association and Apperception (the passive and active combinations of elements of consciousness respectively). Titchener attempted to classify the structures of the mind, like the way a chemist analyzes chemicals into their component parts - water into hydrogen and oxygen, for example. Thus, for Titchener, just as hydrogen and oxygen were structures, so were sensations and thoughts. He conceived of hydrogen and oxygen as structures of a chemical compound, and sensations and thoughts as structures of the mind.
Titchener believed that if the basic components of the mind could be defined and categorized that the structure of mental processes and higher thinking could be determined. What each element of the mind is, how those elements interact with each other and why they interact in the ways that they do will was the basis of reasoning that Titchener used in trying to find structure to the mind.
Life and Legacy
Titchener was a charismatic and forceful speaker and his idea of structuralism thrived while he was alive and championing for it, but the idea that the mind was made of components that could be dismantled to determine interaction and experience does not live on after his death. Structuralism, along with Wundt’s voluntarism, were both effectively challenged and improved upon, though they did influence many schools of psychology today.
Professor Titchener received honorary degrees from Harvard, Clark, and Wisconsin. He became a charter member of the American Psychological Association, translated Oswald Külpe's Outlines of Psychology and other works, became the American editor of Mindduring 1894, and associate editor of the American Journal of Psychology during 1895, and wrote several books. Titchener's brain was contributed to the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell.
- An Outline of Psychology (1896; new edition, 1902)
- A Primer of Psychology (1898; revised edition, 1903)
- Experimental Psychology (four volumes, 1901-05)—188.8.131.52.2
- Elementary Psychology of Feeling and Attention (1908)
- Experimental Psychology of the Thought Processes (1909)
- A Textbook of Psychology (two volumes, 1909-10)
- A Beginner's Psychology (1915)
- Systematic Psychology: Prolegomena (1929)
- Picture, biography and bibliography in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
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