On This Day … 20 October

People (Births)

  • 1859 – John Dewey, American psychologist and philosopher (d. 1952).
  • 1927 – Joyce Brothers, American psychologist, author, and actress (d. 2013).

People (Deaths)

  • 2015 – Arno Gruen, German-Swiss psychologist and psychoanalyst (b. 1923).

John Dewey

John Dewey (20 October 1859 to 01 June 1952) was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He was one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.

The overriding theme of Dewey’s works was his profound belief in democracy, be it in politics, education, or communication and journalism. As Dewey himself stated in 1888, while still at the University of Michigan, “Democracy and the one, ultimate, ethical ideal of humanity are to my mind synonymous.” Dewey considered two fundamental elements – schools and civil society – to be major topics needing attention and reconstruction to encourage experimental intelligence and plurality. He asserted that complete democracy was to be obtained not just by extending voting rights but also by ensuring that there exists a fully formed public opinion, accomplished by communication among citizens, experts and politicians, with the latter being accountable for the policies they adopt.

Dewey was one of the primary figures associated with the philosophy of pragmatism and is considered one of the fathers of functional psychology. His paper “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology,” published in 1896, is regarded as the first major work in the (Chicago) functionalist school. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Dewey as the 93rd-most-cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Dewey was also a major educational reformer for the 20th century. A well-known public intellectual, he was a major voice of progressive education and liberalism. While a professor at the University of Chicago, he founded the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where he was able to apply and test his progressive ideas on pedagogical method. Although Dewey is known best for his publications about education, he also wrote about many other topics, including epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, art, logic, social theory, and ethics.

Joyce Brothers

Joyce Diane Brothers (20 October 1927 to 13 May 2013) was an American psychologist, television personality, advice columnist, and writer. She first became famous in 1955 for winning the top prize on the American game show The $64,000 Question. Her fame from the game show allowed her to go on to host various advice columns and television shows, which established her as a pioneer in the field of “pop (popular) psychology”.

Brothers is often credited as the first to normalise psychological concepts to the American mainstream. Her syndicated columns were featured in newspapers and magazines, including a monthly column for Good Housekeeping, in which she contributed for nearly 40 years. As Brothers quickly became the “face of psychology” for American audiences, she often appeared in various television roles, usually as herself. From the 1970s onward, she also began to accept fictional roles that parodied her “woman psychologist” persona. She is noted for working continuously for five decades across various genres. Numerous groups recognised Brothers for her strong leadership as a woman in the psychological field and for helping to destigmatise the profession overall.

Arno Gruen

Gruen was born in Berlin in 1923, and emigrated to the United States as a child in 1936 when his parents, James and Rosa Gruen, fled Germany to save their lives.

He studied at the City College of New York. Then, after completing his graduate studies in psychology at New York University, he trained in psychoanalysis under Theodor Reik at one of the first psychoanalytic training centres for psychologists, the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis in New York City.

Gruen held many teaching posts, including seventeen years as professor of psychology at Rutgers University. From 1979 on, he lived and practiced in Switzerland. Widely published in German, his groundbreaking first book to be released in English, The Betrayal of the Self, was published by Grove Press in 1988.

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