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Wilhelm Wundt was born in 1832, son of a pastor, in Neckarau, Baden. Medicine seemed to be where the money was, so Wundt went to Heidelberg, where he studied to be a physician. By 1856, he was Privatdozent in Physiology at his alma mater.

An opportunity came in 1858, when Hermann von Helmholtz arrived in Heidelberg and made Wundt his assistant. A few years later, his duties had forever convinced Wundt that the materialist approach that was prevalent in German medicine at the time, of which Helmholtz was a proponent, was not for him.

He was in fact more attracted to the study of consciousness, which was the rage amongst British philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, and William James. Wundt brought his positivist training to the rather waffly British field, thus creating psychology in its modern form (one of the forms, anyway).

This lead to his one shining achievement, which was the world's first experimental laboratory, founded in Leipzig in 1879, where he became Professor of Inductive Philosophy 4 years before.

Wundt however, unable, or unwilling, to abandon his highly spiritual upbringing, was convinced that there was more to consciousness than what can be observed (a la the positivistic approach). Much of his work, which is largely disregarded in these times anyway, has a rather metaphysical slant to it. This is a pity, as there is a lot of writing -- some 50,000 pages worth, which he finished just in time for his death in 1920.


  • Vorlesungen uber die Menschen und Tier-Seele (1863, English translation, Lectures on Human and Animal Psychology, 1896)
  • Grundzuge der physiologeschen Psychologie (1874, English translation, Principles of Physiological Psychology, 1904).
  • Philosophische Studien, the first journal of psychology (1871) Volkerpsychologie (social psychology), (10 vols, 1911-1920)

Psychology, A. Miller 1962


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