Wilhelm Wundt: From pioneer to outsider

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Wilhelm Wundt: From pioneer to outsider
Wilhelm Wundt: From pioneer to outsider

From Pioneer to Outsider

100 years ago, on August 31, 1920, Wilhelm Wundt died. The researcher who set up the world's first psychological institute in 1879 was later almost forgotten - wrongly so.

Wilhelm Wundt founded psychology as an independent subject at the University of Leipzig. In 1879 he set up a small room with his own equipment as a laboratory. Here his student Max Friedrich began the first experimental psychological doctoral thesis "On the duration of apperception in simple and compound ideas". Official recognition as a "University Institute for Experimental Psychology" followed in 1883. In a new building in 1897, it received an auditorium with almost 500 seats, a smaller one with 98 seats and 15 laboratories, later another floor was added for a "ethnological department".

His institute became world famous within a few years and attracted many students, especially from Central and Eastern Europe, England and the USA. The only possible degree was a doctorate, and so Wundt supervised a total of 184 doctoral students between 1875 and 1919; about a third of them conducted experimental psychological research. Wundt's employees and guests included many greats in the field. His first assistant was James McKeen Cattell, who became the first professor of psychology in the United States in 1889. More than half of first- and second-generation American psychologists have Wundt's name on their academic "pedigree" …

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