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James McKeen Cattell

Born: 24-May-1860
Birthplace: Easton, PA
Died: 20-Jan-1944
Location of death: Lancaster, PA
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Psychologist, Editor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Academic freedom

Psychologist James McKeen Cattell studied under Wilhelm Wundt, but chafed at what he felt was disrespect from the elder psychologist. Early in his career he wrote about the effect of hashish on his mind, and later he was an advocate of objective psychological testing. He edited numerous scientific and educational journals, and his work in psychiatry is still considered significant, but Cattell is best known for being fired by Columbia University in 1917, after he wrote to Congress in opposition to the draft during World War I. In response, Cattell sued and won a $45,000 annual pension from the University. His case was instrumental in establishing the principle of academic tenure in American colleges and universities.

During his time at Columbia he devised tests to evaluate incoming freshmen using such criterion as strength of squeeze, reaction time for sound, and short-term recall, but when deemed inadequate these measures were replaced by Alfred Binet's "intelligence quotient" tests. Beginning in the early years of the twentieth century, Cattell also edited the first edition of American Men of Science. To accompany the biographies of US scientists, he devised a system of polling and ranking scientists "in a manner much too scientific for the ordinary mind to grasp", and scientists deemed significant were "starred" with an asterisk in the book. In 1910, compiling the second edition, Cattell announced that the quality of American science was "rapidly decreasing" because the number of "starred" scientists had declined. He was a proponent of eugenics, and called for sterilization of people deemed less intelligent.

After leaving Columbia, Cattell founded the Psychological Corporation, offering what was described as "practical applications of psychological knowledge and techniques" in testing and polling. He called his home Fort Defiance, named his daughter Psyche, and had his children home schooled, as he had been himself. Cattell's father was President of Lafayette College, and his uncle, Alexander Gilmore Cattell (b. 1816, d. 1894), was a US Senator representing New Jersey. His wife, Josephine, was often described as "unacknowledged editor" of Cattell's many scientific publications, and at his death she succeeded him as editor of Science.

Father: William Cassady Cattell (President of Lafayette College, b. 1827, d. 1898)
Mother: Elizabeth McKeen Cattell ("Lizzie", b. 1822, m. 1859, d. 1904)
Wife: Josephine Owen Cattell
Daughter: Psyche Cattell (child psychologist, b. 1893, d. 1989)

    University: BA, Lafayette College (1880)
    University: MA, Lafayette College (1883)
    University: University of Göttingen
    University: Cambridge University
    University: Johns Hopkins University
    University: PhD Psychology, University of Leipzig (1886)
    Professor: Psychology, University of Pennsylvania (1888-91)
    Professor: Psychology, Columbia University (1891-1917)

    American Academy of Arts and Sciences President (1924)
    American Eugenics Society
    American Psychological Association President (1895)
    National Academy of Sciences 1901
    New York Academy of Sciences President (1902)
    Psychological Corporation Founder & Chairman (1921-44)
    Leaders in Education Editor (1932-44)
    School & Society Editor (1915-39)
    American Naturalist Editor (1907-38)
    Scientific Monthly Editor (1900-44)
    Psychological Review Editor (1894-1904)
    Science Editor (1894-1944)
    Risk Factors: Marijuana, Morphine

Author of books:
On the Perception of Small Differences (1892, with George Stuart Fullerton)
American men of science: A Biographical Directory (1906, and five subsequent editions)
University Control (1913)
James McKeen Cattell: Man of Science (1947, posthumous)


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