Birthday: August 16, 1832
Died At Age: 88
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt
Born in: Mannheim
Famous as: Philosopher
Died on: August 31, 1920
place of death: Großbothen
City: Mannheim, Germany
Founder/Co-Founder: Leipzig University
education: Heidelberg University, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Tübingen
Wilhelm Wundt was a pioneering physician who laid the foundations of modern day psychology. Earlier psychology was regarded a discipline of philosophy but Wundt revolutionized the idea and presented psychology as a separate branch of science. After completing his studies in medicine, he embarked on an academic career. It was under his guidance that the world’s first ever academic curriculum for psychology was charted and taught at the University of Heidelberg. He was inspired by the works of Ernst Heinrich Weber and Gustav Fechner in experimental psychology and set about exploring the genre. He stressed on the relation between human mind and brain and used experimental methods to analyse the reaction of brain to varying stimuli such as thoughts, vision and feelings. He also conducted extensive research on the process of perception and how it affects one psychology. His book ‘Principles of Physiological Psychology’ became a renowned publication and formed the basis for further study in the field. Wilhelm’s most important contribution towards psychology was the establishment of one of the earliest laboratories dedicated solely to the study of the discipline. The laboratory in the premises of Leipzig University became a centre of new studies and research in the field and produced numerous eminent psychologists. Read on to know more about his life and works
Childhood & Early Life
Wilhelm Wundt was the son of Lutheran parents Maximilian Wundt and Marie Frederike, born on August 16, 1832 in Baden, Germany. His father, Maximilian, was a pastor by profession and the family shifted to the town of Heidelsheim, where Wilhelm and his three elder siblings completed their schooling.
He then pursued higher studies from the ‘University of Tübingen’, later completing his graduation in medicine from the ‘University of Heidelberg’ in 1856. He also studied at the ‘University of Berlin’ under physiologist Johannes Peter Müller until the latter’s death.
His first publication on ‘Ethnic psychology’ was ‘Völkerpsychologie’; he worked throughout 1900-1920, publishing as many as ten volumes of the book.
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Returning to his alma mater at Heidelberg, in 1858, he took up the position of a lecturer in physiology, assisting physicist Hermann von Helmhotz in his research.
As a lecturer at the university, he popularized scientific psychology among his students and the department offered the first ever curriculum on the subject. He encouraged scientific investigation of relationship between human mind and perception rather than the old school approach where psychology was considered to a figment of philosophy and hence evaluated through rational analysis.
He also penned his first book on psychology ‘Beiträge zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung’ (‘Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception’) during 1858–62.
‘Vorlesungen über die Menschen und Thierseele’ (‘Lectures on the Mind of Humans and Animals’) published in1863 comprised of the lectures he delivered on psychology. Through his lectures he made efforts to establish psychology as a branch of science.
The university appointed him as an Assistant Professor of Physiology, the following year and he also authored a book on human physiology, titled ‘Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen’ (‘Text-book of Human Physiology’), in 1865.
The subject did not intrigue Wilhelm much and he started delivering lectures on pathological anatomy and the necessity of clinical examination, in 1867.
In 1874, he accepted a position of professor at the ‘University of Zurich’, lecturing on ‘Inductive Phliosophy’. The same year he started working on his most important literature on psychology, ‘Principles of Physiological Psychology’, which became a benchmark in the field.
In 1875, he accepted a position at the ‘University of Leipzig’ and the move marked the beginning of his most significant contribution towards establishing psychology as a discipline of science.
In 1879, the world’s first psychological laboratory was established at the ‘University of Leipzig’ under Wundt’s guidance. The laboratory aimed at conducting experiments to understand human psychology and students from across the globe enrolled to understand and explore this newly founded discipline.
He then founded a journal ‘Philosophische Studien’ (‘Philosophical Studies’), in 1881, which published the findings of the research activity undertaken by Wilhelm’s laboratory.
Throughout his career, he authored several books and scientific papers and the books; one such composition was ‘Grundriss der Psychologie’ (‘Outline of Psychology’), published in1896.
Wilhelm is credited for segregating psychology from philosophy and creating a new identity for the subject. His ‘Principles of Physiological Psychology’ became a standard textbook and through his book he demonstrated the use of experimental procedures in analysing human psychology.
Personal Life & Legacy
Wundt exchanged nuptial vows with daughter of academician Sophie Mau on August 14, 1872. They were blessed with two daughters, Eleanor and Lily, and a son, Max.
This eminent physiologist breathed his last on August 31 1920 in Saxony, Germany.