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Hick trained as a doctor, taking the MB and BS degrees of the University of Durham in 1938, and the MD of the same University in 1949. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1941, leaving in 1944 when he moved to Cambridge to join the MRC's Applied Psychology Unit at the Cambridge Psychological Laboratory.
He was appointed Reader by the University of Cambridge in 1953, and was also a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge.
He was a founding member of the Experimental Psychology Group and served as its President in 1958, when it became the Experimental Psychology Society. He was also a founder member of the Ergonomics Society and a member of the Ratio Club.
- Hick, W. E. and Bates, J. A. V. (1949). The Human Operator of Control Mechanisms. Inter-departmental Technical Committee on Servo Mechanisms, Great Britain, Shell Mex House: 37.
- Hick, W. E. (1952). On the rate of gain of information. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 4: 11–26.
- Welford, A. T. (1975). Obituary: William Edmund Hick. Ergonomics 18 (2): 251–252.