On This Day … 25 May

People (Births)

  • 1860 – James McKeen Cattell, American psychologist and academic (d. 1944).
  • 1941 – Uta Frith, German developmental psychologist.
  • 1947 – Catherine G. Wolf, American psychologist and computer scientist.

James McKeen Cattell

James McKeen Cattell (25 May 1860 to 20 January 1944), American psychologist, was the first professor of psychology in the United States, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, and long-time editor and publisher of scientific journals and publications, most notably the journal Science. He also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public (or SSP), from 1921-1944.

At the beginning of Cattell’s career, many scientists regarded psychology as, at best, a minor field of study, or at worst a pseudoscience such as phrenology. Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries, Cattell helped establish psychology as a legitimate science, worthy of study at the highest levels of the academy. At the time of his death, The New York Times hailed him as “the dean of American science.” Yet Cattell may be best remembered for his uncompromising opposition to American involvement in World War I. His public opposition to the draft led to his dismissal from his position at Columbia University, a move that later led many American universities to establish tenure as a means of protecting unpopular beliefs.

Uta Frith

Uta Frith (née Aurnhammer; born 25 May 1941) is a German developmental psychologist working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has pioneered much of the current research into autism and dyslexia, and has written several books on the two subjects arguing for autism to be considered a mental condition rather than being caused by parenting. Her book Autism: Explaining the Enigma introduces the cognitive neuroscience of autism. She is credited for creating the Sally-Anne test along with fellow scientists Alan Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen. She also pioneered the work with child dyslexia. Among the students she has mentored are Tony Attwood, Maggie Snowling, Simon Baron-Cohen and Francesca Happé.

Catherine G. Wolf

Catherine Gody Wolf (25 May 1947 to 07 February 2018) was an American psychologist and expert in human-computer interaction. She was the author of more than 100 research articles and held six patents in the areas of human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and collaboration. Wolf was known for her work at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY, where she was a 19-year staff researcher.

In the late 1990s, Wolf was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Despite a rapid physical deterioration, Wolf was still able to communicate with the world via electronic sensory equipment, including a sophisticated brain-computer interface. Remarkably, with almost no voluntary physical functions remaining, she published novel research into the fine-scale abilities of ALS patients.

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