On This Day … 22 July

People (Births)

  • 1881 – Augusta Fox Bronner, American psychologist, specialist in juvenile psychology (d. 1966).
  • 1893 – Karl Menninger, American psychiatrist and author (d. 1990).

People (Deaths)

  • 2012 – George Armitage Miller, American psychologist and academic (b. 1920).

Augusta Fox Bronner

Augusta Fox Bronner (22 July 1881 to 11 December 1966) was an American psychologist, best known for her work in juvenile psychology. She co-directed the first child guidance clinic, and her research shaped psychological theories about the causes behind child delinquency, emphasizing the need to focus on social and environmental factors over inherited traits.

In 1913, while taking a summer course at Harvard University, Bronner met Chicago neurologist and professor William Healy. Healy was equally interested in the study of child delinquency, and subsequently hired Bronner to work as a psychologist at his Chicago Juvenile Psychopathic Institute. In 1914, the institute was renamed the Psychopathic Clinic of the Juvenile Court, and Bronner soon became the assistant director. Bronner and Healy proceeded to shape the study and treatment of delinquent youth, contributing to the scientific understanding that most juvenile crime stemmed from “mental repressions, social conflicts, and family relations”, not hereditary factors. Among other research, Bronner identified that delinquency often arose as a result of placing children with learning disabilities or special abilities in the wrong kinds of educational environments.

In 1917, Bronner and Healy took up new positions at the Judge Baker Foundation of Boston (later the Judge Baker Children’s Centre), a new publicly funded child guidance clinic attached to the Boston juvenile court. Bronner handled most of the psychological examinations of youth, as well as interviews with girls and the youngest children. In 1927, Bronner and Healy wrote the influential Manual of Individual Mental Tests and Testing, a comprehensive guide to assessing a patient’s mental state. Although Healy was originally given the full position of director, with Bronner acting as assistant director, Bronner eventually became co-director of the Foundation in 1930. The Judge Baker Foundation soon became a model for other child guidance clinics across the country, with its co-directors developing important psychiatric practices such as the “team” method, in which psychologists worked together with social workers and physicians to treat a patient.

On 19 November 1930, Bronner and Healy were invited by President Herbert Hoover to attend the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection.

During the 1930s, Bronner also worked briefly in New Haven, Connecticut, as Director of the short-lived Research Institute of Human Relations at Yale University. She was president of the American Orthopsychiatric Association in 1932.

Karl Menninger

Karl Augustus Menninger (22 July 1893 to 18 July 1990) was an American psychiatrist and a member of the Menninger family of psychiatrists who founded the Menninger Foundation and the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.

Beginning with an internship in Kansas City, Menninger worked at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital and taught at Harvard Medical School. In 1919, he returned to Topeka where, together with his father, he founded the Menninger Clinic. By 1925, they had attracted enough investors, including brother William C. Menninger, to build the Menninger Sanitarium. His book, The Human Mind, which explained the science of psychiatry, was published in 1930.

The Menninger Foundation was established in 1941. After World War II, Karl Menninger was instrumental in founding the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital, in Topeka. It became the largest psychiatric training centre in the world. He was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research.

In 1946 he founded the Menninger School of Psychiatry. It was renamed in his honour in 1985 as the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Science. In 1952, Karl Targownik, who would become one of his closest friends, joined the Clinic.

George Armitage Miller

George Armitage Miller (03 February 1920 to 22 July 2012) was an American psychologist who was one of the founders of cognitive psychology, and more broadly, of cognitive science. He also contributed to the birth of psycholinguistics. Miller wrote several books and directed the development of WordNet, an online word-linkage database usable by computer programmes. He authored the paper, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two,” in which he observed that many different experimental findings considered together reveal the presence of an average limit of seven for human short-term memory capacity. This paper is frequently cited by psychologists and in the wider culture. Miller won numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science.

Miller began his career when the reigning theory in psychology was behaviourism, which eschewed the study of mental processes and focused on observable behaviour. Rejecting this approach, Miller devised experimental techniques and mathematical methods to analyse mental processes, focusing particularly on speech and language. Working mostly at Harvard University, MIT and Princeton University, he went on to become one of the founders of psycholinguistics and was one of the key figures in founding the broader new field of cognitive science, circa 1978. He collaborated and co-authored work with other figures in cognitive science and psycholinguistics, such as Noam Chomsky. For moving psychology into the realm of mental processes and for aligning that move with information theory, computation theory, and linguistics, Miller is considered one of the great twentieth-century psychologists. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Miller as the 20th most cited psychologist of that era.

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