The History of Psychology : A Brief Timeline

history of psychology The History of Psychology : A Brief Timeline

For as long as the universe has existed, mankind has been plagued with mysteries. And one of the greatest mysteries that humans still have not solved completely is the human brain and its multiple dimensions.

Various questions continue to amuse scientists about the psychology of the mind. Let’s explore the history of psychology to dwell deeper into this science and learn a bit more about the way our thought-processes work.

Why Is It Important To Know And Understand The History Of Psychology?

A lot of what we build on today is based on basic, even ancient, research on the human mind by leading figures who focused on the human mind. That is why it is important to dwell into the history of psychology timeline, so we can identify what the root of current theory is.

Brief History of Psychology Overview

The timeline of psychology dates back to a 1000 years, encompassing the pre-historic civilizations of Egypt, Greece, China & the Indian sub-continent. The foundation for modern-day psychotherapy was laid by medieval physicians in the Islamic world when the first psychiatric hospitals were built in Fez, Morocco.

Albeit, the science of psychology took the form of experimental study when Wilhelm Wundt built the first dedicated laboratory in 1879 in Leipzig, Germany.

Transitions in the History of Psychology

The science of psychology spread to different parts of the world through different people at different intervals in human history. It is therefore important to have insight into each one.

Medieval Period & Early Psychology

This period was dominated by physicians in the Islamic world who focused on the diseases of the “nafs” as they referred to it. The nafs implies the human psyche and its provisions. Some of the famous scientists of this era were:

Al-Balkhi (850-934)

Ahmed Ibn Sahl divided the term psychology into two areas, the body and the soul. He argued that while the imbalance of the body results in physical ailments, similarly, the imbalance of the soul can result in psychological states of tension, depression, anxiety, anger etc.

Ibn al-Haythm (circa 1010)

The author of the famous Kitab al-Manazir, or the Book of Optics, al-Haythm was one of the pioneers in studying the various alterations to sensation through variation in elements such as touch, colors, perceptions of different phenomena such as darkness etc.

Ibn al’Sina (c.980-1037)

Al-Sina was one of the first people to develop methodology of psychotherapy by focusing on changes in pulse rate and their connections with internal feelings.

German Psychology

Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) a senior professor at the University of Heidelberg, engaged Wilhelm Wundt as an assistant in his experimental approach to psychology. Utilizing instruments from the field of physiology, such as chronoscopes, kymographs etc. to experimentally counter issues in psychology. His focal area of concern was the phenomenon of apperception, the point at which a perception occupies the central focus of conscious awareness.

Major Transition in German Experimental Psychology

In 1874 Wundt took up a professorship in Zurich where he published his landmark textbook, Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie (Principles of Physiological Psychology). Then, in Leipzig in 1879, he founded a laboratory specifically dedicated to original research in experimental psychology, the only of its kind in the world at that time.

American Psychology History

The earliest texts in the US, pertaining to the field of psychology, were published by  George Trumbull Ladd of Yale (1887) and James Mark Baldwin  of Lake Forest College (1889). One of the major transitions in American psychology came when G. Stanley Hall arrived at John Hopkins University in 1882, and opened the first American research laboratory devoted to experimental psychology in 1883.

The Great American Gold Rush of Psychology

Starting in 1887 with the University of Pennsylvania’s experimental lab built by  James McKeen Cattell, the entire United States went in to a catalysis phase for such. Following suit were Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin in 1888, Clark University , the McLean Asylum  and the University of Nebraska in 1889.

Albeit, the first university building in the United States to be devoted entirely to experimental psychology was Princeton University’s Eno Hall in 1924. It became home to the university’s Department of Psychology.

Other Historical Transitions in World Psychology

Notable nations such as Britain and France have their own shares of the history of psychology. The first experimental lab in the UK was opened by Francis Galton in 1884, where people were tested on a wide variety of physical (e.g. strength of blow) and perceptual (e.g. visual acuity) attributes.

Similarly, the French point of psychological experimental revolution kicked off in 1889, when Alfred Binet and and his colleague Henri Beaunis co-founded the first experimental lab at the Sorbonne. The history of psychology is rich with visionaries and transitions throughout.

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