Biography


Family and Childhood
Education
Middle age to Retirement
The Last Months




Family and Childhood




Skinner's Father and Mother


Burrhus Frederic Skinner, born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in 1904, had a chilhood typical of many children born into middle-class America in the early twentieth century. His father was a lawyer, and his mother was a good Presbyterian, who took care of the house and family. His interests ranged from playing the saxophone to observing the behaviour of animals (Nye, 1992). He described his home environment as 'warm and stable' (Skinner, 1967, p. 387, cited in Nye, 1992). In addition to his parents and grandparents, Skinner was greatly influenced by Mary Graves. She was his English teacher and fueled his interest in literature.


















Skinner as a child


Skinner married Yvonne Blue in 1936. They had two daughters, Julie and Deborah.






















Eve, Julie, and Deborah


Education

Skinner was educated at Hamilton College in New York. He majored in English with the intention of persuing a career as a novelist. After a failed attempt at writing his first novel, he entered graduate school at Harvard University in 1928, and he completed his Ph.D in psychology in 1931.

Skinner as a freshman


Middle age to Retirement

Skinner worked at Minnesota University from 1936 to 1945 as a lecturer, researcher, and writer. The Behavior of Organisms (1938) reported his research with rats, which laid the foundation for operant conditioning principles. In his book Walden Two (1948) he attempted to apply these principles to the outside world in a fictional account of an utopian society. He worked as a professor and chairman of the Department of Psychology at Indiana University from 1945 to 1948, after which he accepted a position at Harvard University. During his time at Harvard he accomplished succesful research, effective teaching, work on teaching machines and programmed instruction, and writing a variety of articles and books. He retired in 1974 (Nye, 1992).


The Last Months

Skinner was awarded with honorary degrees from various colleges and universities, as well as a range of awards. Eight days before his death he received a Citation for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology. He is the only person that this distinction has been awarded to in the history of the American Psychological Association (APA) ). Burrhus Frederic Skinner died in August 18, 1990 at the age of 86 (Nye, 1992).