Edward Lee Thorndike
Born 31 August, 1874 in Williamsburg, Maasachusetts, Edward Lee Thorndike was the son of a Minister. It is likely that he had a higher education as a result of the socioeconomic status of his father. His upbringing was strict - hard work and good manners were emphasised. He died 9 August 1949 in Montrose, New York
- Thorndike studied English at Wesleyan, gaining his BS in 1895.
- He then went on to Harvard and completed his MA in 1897.
- In 1898, at the age of 24, Thorndike completed his PhD in Psychology at Columbia. His thesis was 'Animal Intellgience'.
Source of information
- 1898 - Assistant Professor of Pedagogy at Case Western Reserve University.
- 1899-1940 - Faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University
- 1912 - President of American Psychological Association
- 1934 - President of American Association for the Advancement of Science
- 1942-1943 - William James Lecturer, Harvard University
Contributions to the World of Psychology
Thorndike made a number of contributions to the world of Psychology. His focus was on behaviorism. This started as a result of asking the question 'can animals think?'.
- Thorndike introduced the use of animals and humans in controlled settings to test and prove (or disprove) theories that predicted behaviour.
- He emphasised the consequences of behaviours as key determiners of what is learned and what is not. Later studies on reinforcement (Skinner, etc) are based on Thorndike's ideas.
- The practical application of Thorndike's theory to education was significant. In the 1930s and 40s drill-learning was a common practice, in the classroom, particularly in the area of arithmetic. Thorndike made the study of child development into an objective science.
- Thorndike's contribution to psychology literature was also extensive. He wrote hundreds of articles and over 70 books.
- Thorndike also established the use of tests and statistical models in education and psychology.
To find out more about some of these contributions, click on the links below.
This page prepared by Katherine Naylor, (ID# 97184631) September 2001