Department of Psychology (University of Michigan) Records

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Department of Psychology (University of Michigan) records

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Department of Psychology (University of Michigan) record groupheld by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Teaching and research unit of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts of the University of Michigan. Records include administrative files, committee minutes, reports, some course material and a topical file which contains some information on student antiwar activities, 1966-1967. Also several photos of the psychology laboratories, 1903-1915.


Psychology as a separate course of study was not recognized in the United States until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. At the University of Michigan, the Department of Psychology was officially formed in 1929, but instruction in psychology or “Mental Philosophy” as it was called, was available from the Department of Philosophy from 1852. Many prominent figures in early American psychology taught at the University of Michigan. President Tappan, who was Professor of Mental Philosophy as well as president of the university, taught courses in mental philosophy from 1852 to 1863. Other important figures include John Dewey who established the first psychological laboratory, and George Herbert Mead and James H. Tufts, who each briefly held positions at the school in the 1890s. Walter Pillsbury, the first professor to be appointed to the newly separated Department of Psychology, revived laboratory psychology in 1898 and headed the department from 1929 to 1942. He built its reputation as an excellent teaching department with a research emphasis on experimental psychology.

The department boomed after World War II as it began to take on its modern attributes: a large staff, many professors engaged in interdisciplinary research, a large number of graduate students, and a nationally ranked program. Much of the credit for this growth and diversification is credited to the work of Donald G. Marquis, Department Chairman from 1945 to 1957.

In the early 1960s the department introduced sub-disciplines to facilitate communication between faculty and students in the huge department. These sub-disciplines also allowed students to specialize within a field of study that was growing more and more diverse. The sub-disciplines grew to include experimental, clinical, community, physiological, mathematical, personality, social, psychobiology (neuroscience), developmental, industrial, and general psychology.

In recent years the growth has slowed, but the national reputation and solid work done in clinical, social, and mathematical psychology endure. The Department of Psychology at this time is one of the largest departments of the university and boasts some of the highest class enrollments at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

1929-1942 Walter Pillsbury
1945-1957 Donald G. Marquis
1958-1961 E. Lowell Kelly
1961-1971 Wilbert J. McKeachie
1971-1976 J. E. Keith Smith
1977-1982 Warren T. Norman
1982-1991 Albert Cain
1992-2001 Patricia Y. Gurin
2002-2007 Richard Gonzalez
2007-2012 Theresa M. Lee
2012- Robert M. Sellers

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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