SHP Division 26

Our History

Watson photo

Robert I. Watson and the Founding of Division 26 of the American Psychological Association

This article originally appeared in the Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences, Volume 18

October 1982

Robert I. Watson was instrumental in the founding of Division 26 of the American Psychological Association (the Division of the History of Psychology). This article traces Watson’s involvement in the in the prehistory of the division and describes his installation as its first president in 1966. My first opportunity for more than a casual acquaintance with Bob Watson came in July 1961 while I was teaching in the summer session at Northwestern University. He was already interested in promoting the history of psychology, and the first American Psychological Association (APA) discussion group had been held the autumn before. He told me then of his hope to gain access to the Franz Brentano papers that were in the hands of Brentano’s son, an emeritus professor at Northwestern University, who was reluctant to make them available. Bob’s widespread interests and expeirences in psychology were an advantage to him in his later work in history. Although I recognize the distinctiveness of the history of psychology as a specialty requiring skills and training of a unique kind, I also believe that a person immersed in the day-to-day world of research and planning for psychology has some advantages over the total outsider because of his acquaintance-with as well as his knowledge about, as William James might have put it. Bob was well prepared for his new role in this respect for he really did not become committed to history as a career until 1959, by which time he was fifty years old and had already earned a substantial reputation as a psychologist. The favorable response to his review article “A Brief History of Clinical Psychology,” which appeared in 1953, eventually persuaded him that history was his calling. Others contributing to this symposium have reflections on Bob’s role as historian and as teacher of those preparing for historical careers; my purpose is to record how he iniated the Division of the History of Psychology, known as Division 26 of the American Psychological Association. The first step was a meeting in Evanston in 1960 of three people: Bob, David Bakan, and John C. Burnham. I had seen David Bakan on several occasions in Columbia, Missouri, while he was teaching at the University of Missouri, for I was a frequent vsitor as a member of the Board of Stephens College, located in the same city. There I learned to respect David’s restless and inquiring mind. I had met John Burnham when he was a graduate student at Stanford; he had consulted me about his doctoral dissertation, which was already in the history of psychology. It was propitious that the group of three included one trained specifically in and committed to scholarly history as a career. The three of them offered to convene a discussion group on the history of psychology at the September 1960 APA convention in Chicago. Of those invited, twenty-six turned up and fifteen expressed interest but sent regrets. I am sorry that I too had to send my regrets, and thus I canot give a personal account of that first meeting of a “special interest group.” Fortunately, the Archives of the History of American Psychology under John Popplestone and Marion White McPherson have preserved copies of the invitation and attendance lists, and of the first minutes distributed in the name of the group. Those minutes were probably prepared by Bob Watson, although attributed to the convening committee, because the later minutes and newsletters, of which this became the first, were actually signed by Bob. A minor note on the matter of consulting records: Bob’s memory of the first meeting as reported in his autobiographical account was that “fifteen or so showed up.” In fact, as noted, the number was actually twenty-six – a memory loss of 42 percent of those attended, protected by Bob’s “or so,” just as my “probably” with regard to the author of the minutes saves me the necessity for confirmation. In the same year, 1960, Bob had prepared and published an article in the American Psychologist entitled “The History of Psychology: A Neglected Area,” designed to stir up interest. Annual newsletters, the next three under Bob’s authorship helped keep the interest alive between the annual discussions at the APA conventions, each with more formally arranged symposia. The fifth newsletter was edited by a new committee consisting of Cedric Larson, Ronald Mayer, and Leonard Ferguson. It contained length abstracts of talks given in Saint Louis in 1962. By this time the membership list, or at least the mailing list, of the History of Psychology Group totaled 111 names. By the time of the tenth newsletter, 24 May 1965, the progress report indicated that the 200 necessary signatures had not yet been received. Fortunately, in the twelfth and final newsletter of the History of Psychology Group, in the summer of 1965, it could be announced that Bob Watson had succeeded in getting 226 signatures by 8 June, and a new division was assured. The final meeting of the History of Psychology Group was at the Chicago convention on 6 September 1965, and it was at that meeting that the new Division 26 was approved by the governing body of the APA, with 211 charter members. It takes more than this to get a division underway, with officers to be elected, constitutions and by-laws to be set up, and all the rest that is necessary to keep it viable. It was a matter of course that Bob Watson would be the first president when the first meeting as a new division was held in 1966, and the rest is history. Bob continued to play an important role as the founding father. The matter of installing Bob Watson as the first president was more colorful than my chronological account has indicated. There was some problem about how to honor Professor Edwin G. Boring, for he did not want to run for president, although he was approached initially because of his eminence as the leading historian of psychology at the time. Hence it was proposed that Boring be made “honorary president,” and that title for him was announced on the election ballot. The next step was to persuade Boring to present Watson at the first official meeting. Because of his increasing deafness, Boring did not wish to attend the meeting. After a considerable exchange of letters, Boring wrote to Josef Broiek indicating that he expected Broiek to be the real master of ceremonies, that Boring would have his say through John Popplestone as a medium, and then Watson could introduce himself. On one of the postcards for which Boring is famous, he had earlier written that such an introduction would be proper, a point that is repeated in the statement that Boring sent to be read by Popplestone as his representative at the introduction of Watson:

Introduction by Robert I. Watson, President of the Division of the History of Psychology, by Edwin G. Boring, a ghost, speaking through the medium, John A. Popplestone.

Members and Friends of the new Division of the History of Psychology: Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Episcopus, the Bishop, and thus the Overseer of the History of Psychology in America has properly and happily been elected the First President of our new Division and is now about to inaugurate this enterprise of our reaching back into the past to reincarnate it in the present by making the Division’s first presidential address. He is, as I understand it, to have a trinity of introductions, for it takes three layers-on-of-hands to make a Bishop. Our First President is to be blessed by one flesh-and-blood master of ceremonies, by one ghost, and then, like Napolean seizing the crown from the hands of Pius VII, by his very own self. You’ll see.

The ghost, of course, is I. I cannot be with you because I could not hear all your wisdom were I there (it’s my Organs of Corti), but like any good returned ghost I can speak through a medium as I am doing now. I am a ghost of History Past, when the interest in the history of psychology had not yet become as vigorous as it is now, and by a miracle I have been named Honorary President of our Division, whereas Bob Watson had to wait on his election before he could be as sure as he is now that you all wanted him. The old question of which existed first, the chicken or the egg, is now answered in one case. The egg did, for I am it and Bob is about to crow for you. I like having been given this privilege of telling from afar how wise you were to elect Bob Watson, something that you knew all along and that you will realize once again in just a moment.

When I am through, Bob will introduce himself and will tell you why. I know, for he has let me read his self-introduction, which is sanctioned by no less a psychologist than Descartes, who started us running on two of our present tracks. If you are not already aware of it, you will see his erudition then, but after that will come the real paper and you will see how wise a man can be made by reading and thought and intelligence. Bob is, of course, being borne on a wave of the Zeitgeist, for so we all are. He still believes in Great Men and has written a book which everyone reads about the Great Psychologists. And he is quite right, for history can be continuous and yet need extraordinary minds to carry it along. And we will talk about prescriptions in psychology – at least eighteen of them – the directives of psychological thinking in the past and its formats in the present, thus showing you how the history of thought in a science can be analyzed through trends, a much more instructive perspective than the staccato enumeration of the spurts of the Great Men who bore the trend forward through the years. But all this belongs to Bob and not to me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in a moment Robert I. Watson will introduce himself and then make good on his introduction.

Bob did, of course, make good, and the division grew slowly but steadily, and owes everything to his initiative and leadership. NOTES 1. The early steps are recounted in Watson’s autobiographical account, Robert I. Watson, “Working Paper,” in The Psychologists, ed. T. S. Krawiec, vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 286-288 2. William James, Principles of Psychology, vol. 1 (New York: Henry Holt, 1890), p. 221 3. Watson, “Working Paper,” p. 297; Robert I. Watson, “A Brief History of Clinical Psychology” 4. Watson, “Working Paper,” p. 287 5. John C. Burnham, “Psychoanalysis in American Civilization before 1918” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 1958). Psychological Bulletin 50 (1953): 321-346 6. Watson’s figure of “fifteen or so” can be found on p. 288 of his “Working Paper.” The invitation, signed by Waston, Bakan, and Burnham, called the meeting for 3 September 1960, in the Old Chicago Room, Hotel Sherman. Those in attendance were listed in the informal minutes, which became the first “newsletter” (undated, signed by the typed names of Watson, Bakan, and Burnham). The following twenty-six were listed in attendance: James Barclay, Michael Wertheimer, Robert MacLeod, Alexander Mintz, Edgar O. Wood, Paul Montjoy, Paul Singer, Keith Davis, (Rev.) Walter Farrell, Faye Karpf, Abraham Luchins, F. Theodore Perkins, Abram M. Barch, Carolyn Hardin, Gabriel Ofiesh, Cedric A. Larson, Ronald W. Mayer, Kenneth Kunert, Saul Rosenzweig, Edgar Gregory, Harold Grant, Virginia Staudt Sexton, Nicholas Hobbs, Robert Watson, and John C. Burnham. Three of these later became presidents of the new division, and a number of others were to hold elective offices. Of the fifteen listed who were invited but unable to attend, four later were elected presidents of the division. 7. Robert I. Watson, “The History of Psychology: A Neglected Area,” American Psychologist, 15 (1960): 251-255 8. The first two “newsletters” were neither named as such nor signed. The second, signed by Watson, was dated March 1961, but it was not identified as a newsletter. The next, bearing the title “Newsletter: History of Psychology Group,” was indicated as No. 3, thus identifying the earlier communications as belonging to the series of newsletters. It was dated November 1961 and signed by Watson as editor. He edited the fourth in August 1962. After that the other editors took over. 9. The approval was noted in the American Psychologist, 20 (1965): 1034 10. Watson was president of the division in 1966-1967. The following persons succeeded him as president:

Gardner Murphy (1967-1968) Robert MacLeod (1968-1969) Karl Dallenbach (1969-1970) David Bakan (1970-1971) Mary Henle (1971-1972) Solomon Diamond (1972-1973) Josef Broiek (1973-1974) Nicholas Pastore (1974-1975) John Sullivan (1975-1976) David Krantz (1976-1977) Michael Wertheimer (1977-1978) John Popplestone (1978-1979) Virginia Staudt Sexton (1979-1980) Ernest R. Hilgard (1980-1981) Barbara Ross (1981-1982) Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. (1982-1983)

11. Robert I. Watson, The Great Psychologists: ed., without subtitle, 1987. From Aristotle to Freud (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1963; 4th) 12. The statement by Boring for Watson’s introduction was kindly made available for my use by John A. Popplestone and accompanied a letter dated 11 August 1981. The material included, in addition, copies of the letters and the postcard referred to, all part of a Popplestone’s personal correspondence and not a regular holding of the Archives of the History of American Psychology.

Society for the History of Psychology By-Laws

Division 26 of the American Psychological Association

(Last updated August, 2012)

Article I – Name and Purpose

1.  The name of this organization shall be the Society for the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the American Psychological Association.

2.  The purpose of this organization shall be (a) to encourage and facilitate original scholarship in the history of psychology; and (b) to extend the awareness and appreciation of the history of psychology as an aid to the understanding of (1) contemporary psychology in its aims as a science, profession and means of promoting human welfare, (2) its relation to other scientific and scholarly fields, and (3) its role in society.


Article II – Membership

1.  Membership in the Society for the History of Psychology shall be open to persons who have an interest in the history of psychology.  Classes of membership shall be: Fellows, Members, Associates, and Affiliates.

2.  Applicants for membership shall be approved by the Membership officer and/or the appropriate staff at APA Division Services.  The Membership officer and/or staff at APA Division Services will notify new members of their acceptance into the Society.

3. Fellows shall be persons who qualify for fellowship status in the American Psychological Association (under Article II, Section 3, of the Bylaws of the APA) and who have made outstanding and unusual contributions to the field of the history of psychology.

4.  Members and Associates shall be persons who are Members or Associates of the American Psychological Association.

5.  Affiliate Membership is open to any individual with an interest in the history of psychology.

6.  On all matters calling for action by the membership of the Society, each Fellow and Member shall have one vote.


Article III – Officers

1.  There shall be two categories of officers of the Society: Elected Officers and Appointed Officers.  The Elected Officers shall be the President, President-Elect, Past President, Secretary-Treasurer, and such Representative(s) to Council as are provided for by the Bylaws of the APA.  The Appointed Officers (See Article VII) shall include Program officer, News and Notes officer, Journal officer, Electronic Communications officer, Membership officer, Fellows officer, Archives officer, and Student Representative.

2.  The term of office for the President of the Society shall be one year, preceded by one year as President-Elect and followed by one year as Past President.  The term of office for the Secretary-Treasurer shall be three years.  The terms of office for Representatives to Council shall be governed by the provisions of the Bylaws of the APA.  Elected officers of the Society may succeed themselves in the same office after accepting nomination and being re-elected by the membership of the Society.

3.  It shall be the duty of the President to preside at all meetings, to act as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Society, to exercise supervision over the affairs of the Society with the approval of the Executive Committee, and to perform such other duties as are incident to the office or may properly be required by vote of the Executive Committee.  The President is also expected to deliver a presidential address during the annual APA convention in the year that concludes the presidential year in office.

4.  It shall be the responsibility of the Past President to serve as the Chair of the Nominating Committee, and as Chair of the Awards Committee for division early career and lifetime achievement awards.  The Past President will also oversee the work of other award committees and serve as a member of the Executive Committee.

5.  It shall be the responsibility of the President-Elect to serve as a member of the Executive Committee and to perform the duties of the President in the event of the absence or incapacity of the latter.  The President-Elect shall become the President upon the expiration of the term of the latter.

6.  It shall be the duty of the Secretary-Treasurer to issue calls and notices of meetings; to keep the records of the Society; to serve as Secretary of the Executive Committee; to have custody of all funds and property of the Society; to collect any special dues that may be voted in accordance with Article VIII, Section 1, of these Bylaws and to make disbursements as authorized by the Executive Committee; to serve as a member of the Executive Committee; and to consult with the Program officer and the Chair of the Nominating Committee. The Secretary-Treasurer shall present an annual budget to the Executive Committee and with their concurrence it shall be presented for approval to the Business Meeting of the Society.  Unanticipated costs which occur between Business Meetings shall be handled by consultation with the members of the Executive Committee and explained to the Society members at the next Business Meeting.

7.  It shall be the duty of the divisional Representative(s) to perform the duties and accept the responsibilities specified in Article III of the Bylaws of the APA. The Representative(s) shall also serve as member(s) of the Executive Committee.

8.  In case of the death, incapacity, or resignation of an appointed officer, the President, with the advice and consent of the Executive Committee, shall appoint a successor to serve out the unexpired portion of the term.  For an elected officer, the President, with the advice and consent of the Executive Committee, shall appoint a successor to serve until an election can be held.


Article IV – Executive Committee


1.  There shall be an Executive Committee of the Society whose members shall consist of the Elected and the Appointed officers of the Society.

2.  The Executive Committee shall exercise general supervision over the affairs of the Society, legislating such policies as may seem proper to the interests of the Society, and shall perform the duties and abide by the limitations specified in these Bylaws.  Actions of the Executive Committee are subject to review, if requested by a majority vote of the members present at an Annual Meeting.


Article V – Nominations and Elections

1.  Elected officers of the Society shall be elected by a majority vote of the members casting mail or electronic ballots.  Nominations and elections shall be conducted in accordance with the rules and procedures of the APA.

2.  Each year the Society’s journal shall carry a call for nominations for the offices to be vacant.  The Nominating Committee will consist of the Past President, the President, and the President-Elect and will be chaired by the Past President.  This committee shall receive nominations and prepare a final slate assuring that there are at least two candidates for each vacant office except for the office of Secretary-Treasurer for which one candidate is acceptable.  Before preparation of the final slate, the Chair of the Nominating Committee shall ascertain each nominee’s willingness to serve, if elected.  The final slate shall be reported to the Central Office of the APA, which will issue the election ballot in accordance with the APA Bylaws.

3.  The Chair of the Nominating Committee shall notify all candidates of the results of the election immediately after the results are obtained from the APA Central Office.  Formal announcement of the election results shall be made at the Annual Meeting of the APA.

4.  Elected officers’ terms coincide with the calendar year. President-Elect, Secretary-Treasurer, and Council Representatives shall assume office on January 1st of the year following their election and shall hold office until their elected successors assume office in their stead. If an officer (other than President) fails to accept election, that officer’s place shall be filled by action of the Executive Committee, in accordance with Article III, Section 8 of these Bylaws.


Article VI – Meetings

1.  The Annual Meeting of the Society shall take place during the time of the annual convention of the APA and in the same locality for the purpose of transacting appropriate business, the presentation of papers, symposia, and addresses, and the discussion of such other professional and scholarly matters as fall within the field of the Society’s interest.  The Society shall coordinate its program with, and participate in, the program of the APA.

2.  A quorum shall consist of those members present and voting at the Annual Meeting of the Society. Motions and policy decisions may be also be approved by a majority of those voting by mail, or electronic ballot at any time during the year.


Article VII – Appointed Officers

1.  All Appointed Officers shall serve for terms of three years except the Program officer and Student Representative whose term of office are one year, and the Archives officer whose term of office is five years.  Personnel shall be appointed by the President of the Society with the advice and consent of the Executive Committee and, in the case of the News and Notes officer, in consultation with the Journal officer.

2.  The Membership officer shall recruit new members, respond to requests for information about membership, coordinate with APA Division Services to receive and process applications for membership, maintain a current membership list, and provide an annual report for the meeting of the Executive Committee on numbers of current members and new members in each category of membership.

3.  The Fellows officer shall receive all nominations for divisional fellows, and will collect such supportive material and documentation of the nominations as may be required.  In consultation with the Executive Committee, the Fellows officer shall appoint and chair a Fellows Committee consisting of at least three other current Fellows in the Society.  The committee will consider all nominations and on the basis of those deliberations the Fellows officer will either recommend that a candidate withdraw or will forward the nomination to the Membership Committee of APA, in accordance with the Bylaws of the APA.

4.  The Program officer will be named by the President-Elect with the concurrence of the Executive Committee.  The Program officer is designated the year prior to actual service and will work with the current Program officer and the past Program officer in order to provide continuity.  The Program officer will make arrangements for the program of the year in which the President-Elect serves as President, coordinating the program with the President and the Secretary-Treasurer.  The Program Committee will consist of the past, current, and future Program officers and be chaired by the current Program officer.

5.  The News and Notes officer will be editor of the news and notes section of the Society journal and be responsible for its regular publication.

6.  The Journal officer will be editor of the Society journal and be responsible for its regular publication.

7.  The Electronic Communications officer will maintain the Society ListServe and World Wide Web site.

8.  The Archives officer shall annually inform and remind officers of the Society that it is the Society’s policy to preserve all documents related to business of the Society, serve as liaison between the Society and archival repositories and act to facilitate the transfer of Society related documents from outgoing officers of the Society to the appropriate archive.

9.  The Student Representative shall serve as a liaison between students and the executive committee and shall advise and assist the Executive Committee with issues related to the recruitment and retention of student members.


Article VIII – Dues and Assessments

1.  The minimum dues of the Society shall be the amount established by the APA.  Any changes in annual dues, or special assessments in addition to the dues, shall be recommended by the Executive Committee and decided by a majority of the members voting at the annual meeting or by mail or electronic ballot.


Article IX – Amendments

1.  The Society at any annual meeting by a vote of two-thirds of the members present, or by a majority of the members of the Society voting on a mail or electronic ballot, may adopt such amendments to these Bylaws as have been (a) presented and read at the preceding annual meeting, or (b) mailed to the last known post office address of each member, emailed to the last known email address of each member, or (c) published in the Society journal news and notes section two months prior to the final vote on the proposed amendments.


The Society Bylaws were originally enacted by a majority vote of the Fellows and Members attending the Annual Meeting in San Francisco, 1977.  They were subsequently amended at the Annual Meeting in New Orleans, 1989, and at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco, 1991, clerical changes to the Bylaws for the purpose of clarification were approved.  In April, 1999, the Bylaws were amended by mail ballot.  The Bylaws were amended at the Annual Meeting in Chicago, 2002 at the Annual Meeting in Honolulu, 2004, at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco, 2007, and at the Annual Meeting in Orlando, 2012.