The History of Psychology


Modern German, French, Russian and other European Influences

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) The World as Will and Representation (Excerpt, The Value of Knowledge)





Auguste Compte (1798-1857) General View of Positivism (Excerpt, The Value of Knowledge)




Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821-1894) The Facts of Perception (The Value of Knowledge) Conservation of force. (Internet History of Science Sourcebook) Treatise on physiological optics  (Benjamin Backus, U. Pennsylvaina).




Gregor MendelGregor Mendel's (1822-1884) Plant Hybridization (1865) illustrates the careful observation of plants and their inherited modifications.  Mendel (born in Czechoslovakia and trained in Austria) was an Augustinian Monk who developed the “Laws of Inheritance” which became the framework for modern genetics.  Physical structure is predictably passed from parent to progeny. 



Franz Brentano (1838-1917) Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (Chapters 1 and 2, The Value of Knowledge)



Ernst MachErnst Mach (1838–1916)  The Analysis of Sensations (Chapter 1, The Value of Knowledge)





Friedrick Nietzsche's (1844-1900) Ecce Homo, Beyond Good and Evil, and Thus Spake Zarathustra  (1891) (Nietzsche Pirate Page) are examples of this great thinker’s view of the human situation.  Humans command the world with the force of intellect and continuing progress.  “God is dead, for We have killed him.”  For a time, the great musical composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was Nietzsche’s mentor.   The young philosopher broke with his elder on the basis of Wagner’s anti-Semitism. 




Wilhelm Wundt’s (1832-1920)  Principles of Physiological Psychology, and Outlines of Psychology (York University) present a monumental attempt to create a science.  Wundt’s thoroughly experimental work and his development of the first professional laboratory dedicated to psychological research (1879) earned this prolific writer the homage of many - “Father of Modern Psychology”.   Following the lead of the physical sciences, Wundt strove to develop an experimental discovery of the “elements of consciousness” from which the laws of cognition and perception could be derived.  His singular efforts sprouted a new methodological approach to psychology both through the work of his intellectual advocates and opponents.



91fe2Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Frederick Engles' (1820-1895) Communist Manifesto (1888) Marx' Capital   were works which dominated the political thought of the twentieth century.  Communism certainly was not a new idea but these thinkers successfully caught the imagination of many who wanted to apply the successes of science to the governing of people.  Clearly, people must have rules to live by.  Religion (the opiate of the people) and capitalism (the aristocracy or “big business”)  have no workable or believable ethics. Thus, the people will gain ascendancy and happiness with a manager of their whole interests.  All property and produce will be held in common.  Morality will be the result of the majority managed by an indifferent executive.   



Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1873) Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology (York University)


Ivan P. Pavolov (1849- Lectures on the Work of the Cerebral Hemisphere, Lecture One (Nobel Prize)






Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Archives - This is a very complete site on Freud. Among many other things, it includes E-texts of The Interpretation of Dreams, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Outline of Psychoanalysis, letters, and several articles on Freud. The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis (York University 1910) should also be consulted by, arguably, the most influential psychological thinker of the twentieth century.



[adler photograph] Alfred Adler (1870-1937) What Life Should Mean to You (Chapter 2 – Mind and Body, The Value of Knowledge)




 Gustave Mahler (1860-1911) expanded Symphonic art to an unprecedented level.  He attempted to dig deeply into memory and feeling to express his emotion in truly dramatic orchestral sound which continues to influence modern composers.  Mahler was Austrian, like Freud, but migrated to the United States where he was most famous as conductor of the New York Philharmonic.



Alfred Binet's (1857-1911) New Methods for the Diagnosis of Subnormals (1905) (York University) presents this innovative psychologist’s approach to the practical problem of helping intellectually impaired people.  Binet developed a measurement technique that was the foundation for modern intelligence testing. 




Bergson, Henri -- Media -- Encarta ® Online Henri Bergson (1859-1941) was the significant French psychological thinker who defined the mind as “élan vital”, vital force, in his 1911 work Creative Evolution (Mead Project). Bergson sought to merge science, intuition and spirit in an explanation of human existence.  This masterful writer (Nobel prize for literature in 1927)  combined a compelling mix of the ineffable with rationality. 


Henri Poincaré  Science and Hypothesis. London: Walter Scott. (1905).




C. DebussyClaude Debussy (1862-1918) was the founder of the musical “Impressionist” school in which, like its artistic model in painting (here represented in an impressionist work by Claude Monet (1840-1926), broke away from classical forms and sought to create pure emotion or feeling. 


La cathédrale de Rouen





Carl Jung’s (1875-1961) The Association Method and Psychological Types (York University) The Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology (Chapter 9, The Value of Knowledge) describe the practical results of this psychologist’s theories.  Jung divorced himself from Freud’s theory and developed a more abstract position of “universal unconsciousness” and cultural archetypes.  These arcane and ancient concepts resulted in pragmatic psychological technique: Word associations probe the estrangement between individuals and their inherited mentality.  And personality types are perceived in terms of the ideal – the archetypes.   


 Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) (Archives) developed a system of musical composition the purpose of which was to break through what he considered to be the barrier of traditional tonality.  The controversial result was music that communicated the deepest of human feeling and anxiety, “expressionism”.  




Social psychology led to the RevolutionVladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) (Dave Romagnolo’s site) was one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century.  His authority came from an astute understanding of social psychology and human motivation. 



Photo of Max WertheimerMax Wertheimer’s (1880-1943) Laws of Organization in  Perceptual Forms (York University) is a major statement by the founder of “Gestalt” psychology and predecessor of modern Cognitive psychology.  Members of this school worked to establish holistic approaches to psychology in which systems, as opposed to analytical elements, were identified as the proper focus of psychological study. 


Kurt Koffka's (1886-1941) An Introduction to the Gestalt-theorie (1922) (York University) Principals of Gestalt Psychology (1935, Chapter 1, Marxist Archive) are prime organizing document for the Gestalt movement.  This thinker continues the work of his mentor, Wertheimer, and elegantly summarizes the Gestalt position in the context of other contemporary psychological approaches.   


Wolfgang Köhler’s (1887-1967) Gestalt Psychology Today (1959) (York University) sets the stage for Cognitive psychology in this capstone work.  Although Gestalt psychology began with the study of perceptual systems and laws, the approach is also useful in all of the other areas which are important to psychologists.



Lev Semenovich Vygotsky’s (1896-1934) Thinking and Speaking (excerpts),  The Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology: A Methodological Investigation, The Problem of the Cultural Development of the Child, The Psychology of Art (Andy Blunden) shows this important Russian psychologist’s perspective on how language, in all of its manifestations, and cognition relate.  Vygotsky relegates perception to a lesser role in the development of mentality than the development of the use of language.



Jean Piaget (1896–1980) Genetic Epistemology (Lecture 1, The Value of Knowledge) The Construction of Reality in the Child expanded the field of developmental psychology past categorizing children to qualifying their progress through the stages of maturing.  Piaget studied and eloquently presented how children’s reasoning is modified by experience.  He turned his insights into concrete recommendations for educating young people.








Kurt Gödel (1906- 1978) The modern development of the foundations of mathematics in the light of philosophy (The Value of Knowledge)










Please send your comments and suggestions to Dr. William J. House

Return to the top of this page

Return to House's Home Page

Return to Links