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5 Psychology Pioneers All Psychology Students Should Know (Part 1)

First in a series of posts showcasing the contribution of 'lesser known' psychology pioneers.


Franz Brentano (1838 - 1917)




A celebrated thinker and influential writer on the philosophical foundations of psychology, Brentano is best known for introducing the concept of intentionality and for developing original theories on a range of topics including consciousness, emotion, judgment and logic.


Brentano's major works include 'The Psychology of Aristotle' (1867), 'Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint' (1874) and 'The Classification of Mental Phenomena' (1911).



Joseph Jastrow (1863 - 1944) 




A trailblazer in the early days of modern psychology, Jastrow earned his Ph.D., from the first psychological laboratory established in the United States at Johns Hopkins University in 1886; and was one of the original 31 members of the American Psychological Association founded in 1892, serving as president in 1900. Following his appointment by the University of Wisconsin in 1888, Jastrow established what would become the oldest continuously supported psychology department in the U.S.


Joseph Jastrow was instrumental in popularizing psychological science among the general public. He regularly wrote for leading magazines such as Popular Science Monthly, Cosmopolitan, Scribner's and Harper's Monthly; conducted tests of touch, movement and memory on Helen Keller at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 and became one of the very first radio psychologists when he began hosting a series of talk shows for the NBC studios network.



Edwin Garrigues Boring (1886 - 1968)




An eminent experimental psychologist and renowned historian of psychology, Boring combined his major academic passions in 1929 with the publication of his classic work 'A History of Experimental Psychology'. ' Boring is also known for his groundbreaking work on visual perception, in particular ambiguous figures; such as the ubiquitous young woman, old woman illusion which Boring originally reported on in The American Journal of Psychology in 1930.


Old or Young Woman Illusion.png


Edwin Boring joined the Faculty at Harvard University in 1922, serving as Director of the Psychological Laboratory from 1924 to 1949 before retiring in 1956 as the Edgar Pierce Emeritus Professor of Psychology. Among his many notable achievements, Boring served as president of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1928, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1932 and was listed as one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century by the APA in 2002.



Francis Cecil Sumner (1895 - 1954)




A truly inspirational figure, Sumner became the first African American to earn a PhD in psychology in the United States. A highly respected academic, Sumner was an abstractor for Psychological Bulletin and the Journal of Social Psychology and conducted pioneering research in the field of racial bias and educational justice.



Brenda Langford Milner (Born 15 July, 1918)




A world renowned pioneer in the field of neuropsychology, Brenda Milner began her illustrious career in the early 1950's exploring the effects of temporal lobe damage in humans, for her Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Donald Hebb.


In 1957 along with William Scoville, Milner published 'Loss of Recent Memory After Bilateral Hippocampal Lesions.' This classic article included the findings of a series of experiments conducted with H.M (Henry Molaison) who famously was unable to commit new events to long-term memory following radical surgery designed to control his severe epileptic seizures. This groundbreaking research found that HM was able to steadily improve his performance on tests which he had no recollection of ever taking, a stunning discovery which provided compelling evidence that the brain is not as previously thought, governed by a solitary memory system. This landmark paper would go on to be one of the most cited publications in the history of neuroscience.


Among her many professional accolades, Brenda Milner received the American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1973 and was inducted into The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1997.