Granville Stanley Hall

The American psychologist and educator Granville Stanley Hall (1844-1924) pioneered in developing psychology in the United States. His wide-ranging and prolific writings reveal a central theme best characterized as genetic psychology or evolutionism.

On Feb. 1, 1844, G. Stanley Hall was born on his grandfather's farm in Ashfield, Mass. He graduated from Williams College in 1867 and then, apparently to please his mother, studied for a year at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. His lack of deep conviction must have been heard between the lines of his trial sermon, for at its close the members of the faculty knelt in prayer for the salvation of the young man's soul. With borrowed funds the heretic field to Germany, where for 2 years he wandered in poverty from one university to another in a constant state of intellectual ferment and euphoria.

On his return to America, Hall taught various subjects for 4 years at Antioch College, where, as he once said, he occupied not a chair but a whole bench. In 1878, under the guidance of his friend William James, he received from Harvard the first doctorate in psychology ever given in the United States. Hall then went back to Germany for 2 years, chiefly because he wanted to find out about the new psychology that was attracting so many scholars to Leipzig, and became Wilhelm Wundt's first American student.

In 1881 Hall was invited to lecture at Johns Hopkins University. As soon as he knew that his position there was reasonably secure, he set about building up the first American laboratory for psychology. In 1887 he founded and edited the American Journal of Psychology, the first journal of its kind in the United States.

When Jonas G. Clark, a wealthy merchant of Worcester, Mass., decided to found an institution of higher learning in his native city, he invited Hall to become its first president. Hall persuaded Clark that the institution should be exclusively for graduate students, and it opened in 1889. In a few years the distinguished faculty in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology made Clark University a unique and famous institution. In 1892 about 15 psychologists drew up plans for the American Psychological Association. Hall was its first president.

The twentieth anniversary of the founding of Clark had as one part of the celebration a conference attended by leading American and European psychologists, including Sigmund Freud. At that time Freud was almost unknown in academic circles.

Hall wrote scores of articles and dozens of books. Among his important works are Adolescence (1904), Founders of Modern Psychology (1912), and Senescence (1922). The theme of developmental psychology runs through almost everything Hall wrote in his application and extension of the doctrine of evolution to the growth of the individual, a view which Hall frequently referred to as recapitulation.


Further Reading on Granville Stanley Hall

Hall's autobiography is Life and Confessions of a Psychologist (1923). A good biography is Dorothy Ross, G. Stanley Hall:Psychologist as Prophet (1972). The standard work for the lives and writings of psychologists is E. G. Boring, A History of Experimental Psychology (1929; 2d ed. 1950).

Additional Biography Sources

Hall, Granville Stanley, Life and confessions of a psychologist, New York:Arno Press, 1977.