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Wilhelm Wundt

Wilhelm Wundt

The father of experimental psychology, Wilhelm Wundt was a German psychologist, physician, physiologist and professor. He is still known today to be amongst the founders of modern psychology. He was also the founder of the first formal psychological laboratory in 1879 at the University of Leipzig. He used the laboratory to identify abnormal behaviors, mental disorders as well as explore the nature of religious beliefs and find damaged parts of the brain. His research established psychology as a separate science. Wilhelm Wundt is also associated with founding the first psychological research journal in 1881. The asteroids 635 Vundita and 11040 were named after Wilhelm Wundt to honor him.

Wilhelm Wundt was born on August 16, 1832 in Neckarau, Baden. Wilhelm was the fourth child of Maximilian Wundt, a Lutheran minister and Marie Frederike. At four years of age, Wilhelm moved with his family to a small town known as Heidelsheim. From 1851 to 1856, Wundt studied at the University of Tübingen,University of Heidelberg, and the University of Berlin. After graduating with a degree in medicine from the University of Heidelberg, for a brief period of time, Wundt studied with Johannes Muller and later with the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz. His work during this time later cast a heavy influence in experimental psychology. In 1874, he published the Principles of Physiological Psychology which helped establish experimental procedures in psychological research. He then established the very first two experimental psychology labs while working at the University of Liepzig. Wilhelm Wundt died on August 31, 1920.

According to Wundt, psychology was a science of conscious experience and that if you became a trained observer, you could tell precisely about emotions, thoughts and feelings through a process he called introspection. Wilhelm Wundt’s name is also associated with structuralism, a theoretical perspective that describes the structures that compose the mind.

An extensive writer Wundt wrote keenly on a variety of subjects including physiology, philosophy, psycholinguistics, psychology and physics. Modern psychology has undoubtedly benefitted a lot from the works of Wilhelm Wundt produced from his 65 years long career. Some selected publications by Wilhelm Wundt include Beiträge zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung (1862), Vorlesungen über die Menschen und Thierseele (1893) and Völkerpsychologie, 10 volumes (1900-1920). In recognition of Wundt’s work, the American Psychological Association established the Wilhelm Wundt-William James Award for Exceptional Contributions to Trans-Atlantic Psychology, which recognizes a significant record of trans-Atlantic research collaboration.

An exceptional teacher, Wundt taught many bright students. Many of his students including Edward Titchener, James McKeen Cattell, Charles Spearman, G. Stanley Hall, Charles Judd and Hugo Munsterberg became eminent psychologists in their own right.

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