Hugo Münsterberg bigraphy, stories - German-American psychologist, philosopher and agitator

Hugo Münsterberg : biography

June 1, 1863 - December 19, 1916

Hugo Münsterberg (June 1, 1863 – December 19, 1916) was a German-American psychologist. He was one of the pioneers in applied psychology, extending his research and theories to Industrial/Organizational (I/O), legal, medical, clinical, educational and business settings. Münsterberg encountered immense turmoil with the outbreak of the First World War. Torn between his loyalty to America and his homeland, he often defended Germany's actions, attracting highly contrasting reactions.


Early life

Hugo Münsterberg was born into a Schill Jewish family in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) an east Prussian port city.Hergenhahn, B. R. (2000). An introduction to the history of psychology. Belmont, Calif [u.a.: Wadsworth (347). His father Moritz (1825–1880) was a successful lumber merchant who came from Breslau in the middle of the 19th century. His mother, Minna Anna Bernhardi (1838–1875) was a recognized artist and musician, was Moritz's second wife, and the niece of his first, Rosalie Weinberg (1830–1857). Both his mother and his father died before he was 20 years old. Moritz had two sons with Rosalie, Otto (1854–1915) and Emil (1855–1915), and two with Anna, Hugo (1863–1916) and Oscar (1865–1920). The four sons remained close, and all of them became successful in their chosen careers. A neo-Renaissance villa in Detmold, Germany, that Oscar lived in from 1886-1896 has recently been renovated, and opened as a cultural center.

Education and career

Münsterberg had many interests in his early years and displayed interests in many fields including art, literature, poetry, foreign languages, music, and acting. Münsterberg’s first years of school were spent at the Gymnasium of Danzig from which he graduated in 1882 with Oliver and Dennis. He entered the University of Leipzig in 1883 where he heard a lecture by Wilhelm Wundt and became interested in psychology. Münsterberg eventually became Wundt's research assistant. He received his Ph.D. in physiological psychology in 1885 under Wundt's supervision at the age of 22. Possibly following Wundt's advice Münsterberg decided to study medicine and in 1887 received his medical degree at the University of Heidelberg. He also passed an examination that enabled him to lecture as a privatdocent at University of Freiburg. While at Freiburg he started a psychology laboratory and began publishing papers on a number of topics including attentional processes, memory, learning, and perception. In the same year he married a distant cousin, Selma Oppler of Strassburg, on August 7.

In 1891, he was promoted to assistant professorship and attended the First International Congress of psychology where he met William James. They kept up a frequent correspondence and in 1892 James invited him to Harvard for a three year term as a chair of the psychology lab even though Münsterberg did not speak English at the time. He learned to speak English rather quickly and as a result his classes became very popular with students, in fact he was attracting students from James's classes. Part of the responsibilities he assumed as part of his new position at Harvard was that he became the supervisor of the psychology graduate students, in this position directed their dissertation research. As a result he had a great influence of many students including Mary Whiton Calkins.Hergenhahn, B. R. (2000). An introduction to the history of psychology. Belmont, Calif [u.a.: Wadsworth(350). In 1895 he returned to Freiburg due to uncertainties of settling in America. However, because he could not obtain an academic position that he wanted, he wrote James and requested his old position back so that he could return to Harvard which he did in 1897.Hergenhahn, B. R. (2000). An introduction to the history of psychology. Belmont, Calif [u.a.: Wadsworth(350). But he never could separate himself from his homeland of Germany.

In 1910-11 he was appointed exchange professor from Harvard to the University of Berlin. During that year he founded the Amerika-Institut in Berlin.See Berliner Amerika-Institut on German Wikipedia for more on the Amerika-Institut in Berlin. During the whole period of his stay in the United States, he worked for the improvement of the relations between the United States and Germany, writing in America for a better understanding of Germany and in Germany for a higher appreciation of America.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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