A Brief History of the Department of Psychology
By Douglas Candland (November, 2004).
The first course in psychology at Bucknell, until 1886 the University at Lewisburg, was taught to senior men and women by the president, David Jayne Hill, in the years 1880-1888. No record of the contents of the course survives; however, his texts, The Elements of Psychology, published in 1888, and Genetic Philosophy (1893) most likely reflect the content of the course.
David Jayne Hill, first lecturer in psychology and past president of Bucknell University
Elements utilized Darwin’s concept of evolution to explain the functioning of the mind and included instruction in basic physiology and mentalist concepts such as intellect, sensibility, and the will. Hill, who the late historian Josef Brozek documents as the first person to be named ‘professor of psychology’ in a United States institution, was so named in 1881. (He was appointed professor of ‘psychology and ethics’.) Hill later had a notable career as university administrator and ambassador to several European countries.
From 1892 until the late 1920s, courses called ‘comparative psychology’ and ‘psychology of mental tests’ were taught in the biology and education departments while the president, John H. Harris, during his thirty year tenure, offered an occasional course in psychology within the department of philosophy.
In the early 1930s a separate department of psychology was established with two primary faculty, Frederick Lund, whose text and scholarship on ‘emotion’ was heralded, and Philip Lawrence Harriman, whose specialty was mental testing. He remained as chairman until 1958. He contributed works on psychology for nurses, hypnosis, a dictionary of psychology, and a dictionary of Greek psychological terms.
Philip Lawrence Harriman
After World War II, the influx of students created by veterans returning led to an enlarged department, including the important appointment of Wendell Smith in 1945. He served as chairman, beginning in 1958, and later as provost of the university. His work in comparative psychology led to the establishment of an ‘animal lab’ which would in 1968 be instrumental in the forming of a degree program in ‘Animal Behavior’ supervised jointly by the departments of biology and psychology and featuring the establishment of a primate colony but today comprising a larger faculty specializing in a far greater number of species. Virginia Smith bridged psychology and education, while physiological psychology, animal learning, and the sensory systems became mainstays of the departmental offerings.
(pictured here in 1960 from left to right) Richard Teevan, Wendell Smith, E. Podolnick, Virginia Smith, and Douglas Candland
In 1960 the department of psychology was expanded yet again with the appointment of two persons, one of whom, Douglas Candland, remained until 2002, additionally directing the animal behavior programs. The second, Richard Teevan, studied achievement motivation and was to become chair of SUNY at Albany. In 1964, J Ernest Keen, David Milne, and Richard Wagner, later chair at Bates, joined the department. Keen’s publications included seminal books on phenomenology and psychology; Milne taught perception and statistics, and Wagner social psychology.
1977 Faculty Photos, taken from the Bucknell Yearbook L'Agenda
All photographs courtesy of the Bertrand Library and Bucknell University Special Collections and Archives.