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APA Historical Database: Selected Entries


On August 31:

1821 — Hermann von Helmholtz was born. The breadth of Helmholtz's expertise made him one of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century. He was the first to measure the speed of nervous conduction and made equally important contributions to understanding visual and auditory physiology, spatial perception, and color vision.

1852 — Congress authorized building the first federal mental hospital, the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, DC. Mental health reformer Dorothea Dix selected the site, which Congress purchased for $25,000, overriding President Pierce's veto. The hospital, later known as St. Elizabeth's Hospital, officially opened on March 3, 1855.

1869 — Karl Marbe was born. Marbe's work in psychophysics contributed to the Wrzburg school of imageless thought. Later in his career he contributed studies in industrial aptitude testing, accident prone behavior, and other areas of industrial and applied psychology.

1870 — Maria Montessori was born near Ancona, Italy. Montessori pioneered a system of early childhood education based on a graduated series of direct experiences and exploration. Her methods were first developed for children with mental retardation and came to widespread notice when they were used with normal children in a slum area of Rome. Montessori was the first woman to be awarded the MD degree by an Italian university, the University of Rome, in 1896.

1874 — Edward Lee Thorndike was born. Thorndike's research in learning and educational psychology resulted in the laws of effect and exercise. His studies of cats learning to escape from "puzzle boxes" are especially well-known. With Irving Lorge, he compiled the Thorndike-Lorge lists of word frequency. APA President, 1912.

1884 — George A. L. Sarton was born. Sarton has been called the "father of the history of science." Among his many books, Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science (1921) and The Study of the History of Science (1936) are representative works.

1908 — Robert R. Sears was born. Sears's work focused on the social development of the child, exploring antecedents of aggression, patterns of child rearing, and factors influencing self-esteem. APA President, 1951; APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, 1975; American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal, 1980.

1960 — The organizing meeting of the American Association of State Psychology Boards (AASPB) was held in Chicago. Joseph R. Sanders presided over delegates from 23 state boards as they adopted a provisional constitution and an executive committee. The AASPB was formally founded a year later. The group's name changed to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards in 1991.

1965 — In a Rose Garden ceremony, President Johnson declared the beginnings of Project Head Start a success and announced the expansion of the program to provide year-round opportunities for 350,000 children, summer programs for another 500,000 and followup contacts for those limited to summer sessions.

1968 — The second organizing meeting of APA Division 31 (State Psychological Association Affairs) was held. The meeting was sponsored by the Conference on Professional and Social Issues of Psychology. This attempt at APA affiliation was successful, but an earlier organizing meeting of August 31, 1966 submitted a petition for division status that was deferred by the APA.

1968 — The first meeting of the Council of Teachers of Undergraduate Psychology (CTUP) was held in San Francisco. Robert Harper of Knox College was the first president of the group. CTUP was first named the Council of Undergraduate Departments, changed to the Council of Undergraduate Psychology Departments in 1969, and adopted its current name in 1986.

1968 — Eric Hoffer, longshoreman and social philosopher, delivered an invited address to the APA annual meeting in San Francisco.

1968 — Psychologists Interested in the Study of Psychoanalysis was founded at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco during the APA convention. This organization became APA Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) in 1979.

1970 — The portrait of developmental and educational psychologist Maria Montessori appeared on an Italian postage stamp.

1973 — The first APA Distinguished Contribution for Applications of Psychology Award was presented at the APA convention in Montreal to Conrad Kraft of the Boeing Company for his work on perceptual characteristics of aircraft landing approaches at night.

1974 — The first APA Distinguished Scientific Awards for Early Career Contributions to Psychology were presented at the APA convention in New Orleans to Norman T. Adler, John M. Neale, and Michael Turvey. The Early Career Award is presented for significant contributions by psychologists not more than 6 years beyond their doctoral degree.

1987 — The APA convention was addressed by Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and first woman offered a psychology fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. Her topic was "The Problem That Has No Name — 25 Years Later."

1987 — The mayor of New York City, Edward I. Koch, addressed the APA convention. His speech was titled "Politics and Health Care: For Better and Worse."

1987 — The APA convention was addressed by Ruth ("Dr. Ruth") Westheimer, famous for blunt and humorous advice about sexual behavior delivered on television, radio, and in the print media. Her topic was "Bringing About Sex Literacy via the Airways."


Copyright © 1995, American Psychological Association. Web version by permission. Source: Street, W. R. (1994). A Chronology of Noteworthy Events in American Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. The American Psychological Association and Central Washington University have supported the development of the APA Historical Database.

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